US urges China-Taiwan ‘dialogue’ despite Panama’s jilting of Taipei

Avoid ‘escalatory or destabilising moves’, a US State Department spokesperson says after Panama switches its official recognition to Beijing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 June, 2017, 8:54am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 June, 2017, 9:10am

The United States wants China and Taiwan to engage in dialogue instead of escalatory or destabilising moves, a US State Department spokesperson said after Panama cut ties with Taiwan and switched its official recognition to Beijing.

The US continues to oppose unilateral action by either side to alter the status quo across the Strait, spokesperson Heather Nauert told a press briefing on Wednesday.

Panama announced its break with Taiwan in a joint communique with China in Beijing on Tuesday, leaving Taiwan with only 20 allies with whom it still has formal diplomatic relations.

Nauert declined to comment whether Panama, a small Central American nation, had informed the US of the change in advance.

“The United States urges all concerned parties to engage in productive dialogue and to avoid escalatory or destabilising moves,” Nauert said.

Panama’s ditching of Taiwan is ‘latest sign that Beijing means business’

The joint communique was signed by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Panamanian counterpart Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado, who is also Panama’s vice president.

According to the communique, China and Panama decided to recognise each other and establish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level. For its part, Panama has decided to sever “diplomatic relations” with Taiwan and to have no further official relations or official exchanges with it.

“Beijing of course will put all the blame for this development on Taiwan President Tsai In-wen because she refused explicitly to accept its preconditions for a decent relationship,” said Richard Bush, director for East Asia policy studies at the Brookings Institution.

Bush said Tsai In-wen did address those issues in a serious way, and the slide in relations, of which Panama is a part, is Beijing’s way of punishing Taiwan’s leader for refusing to submit to Beijing’s wishes on various issues.

The US does not get involved in the China-Taiwan rivalry over diplomatic partners, Bush said.