US diplomat recall ‘a message to Beijing over poaching Taipei’s allies’

Pressuring countries to switch recognition ‘not consequence-free’, says head of America’s de facto embassy in Taipei

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 September, 2018, 8:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 September, 2018, 10:55pm

Washington was sending a message to Beijing that pressuring countries to cut diplomatic ties with Taipei will have consequences when it recalled three ambassadors last week, the US representative in Taiwan said on Thursday.

“We will tell the Chinese that picking off diplomatic partners of Taiwan is a source of great concern to the United States. We’ve been telling China as clearly as possible that these are not consequence-free actions,” James Moriarty said at an annual conference at the Global Taiwan Institute, a think tank in Washington, on Thursday.

Even with US help, Taiwan is fighting a losing battle against China to keep its friends and influence

Moriarty has been chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), Washington’s de facto embassy in Taipei, since 2016.

He described Beijing’s actions in recent years to end a diplomatic truce with Taipei as “troubling” and said mainland China’s efforts to unilaterally alter the status quo across the Taiwan Strait were harmful and did not contribute to regional stability.

Moriarty’s remarks came after the United States on Friday recalled its top diplomats to the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Panama “for consultations related to recent decisions to no longer recognise Taiwan”.

They are three of five countries that have switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing since President Tsai Ing-wen became president of the self-ruled island in 2016. El Salvador was the most recent, ending its alliance with Taiwan in late August, leaving Taipei with only 17 countries that formally recognise it.

Relations between Taiwan and mainland China have been strained since Tsai, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, took office in 2016 and refused to accept the “one China” principle. Beijing considers Taiwan to be a breakaway Chinese province to eventually be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Taiwan has come under increasing pressure from Beijing, which has suspended official exchanges across the strait and staged military exercises near the island. Beijing has also sought to isolate Taipei internationally by poaching its diplomatic allies and pushing foreign airlines and other companies to recognise Taiwan as part of China.

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu also addressed the conference in Washington via a recorded video message. He said that if Beijing “is allowed to push Taiwan around and force Taiwan to surrender through coercion, there will be severe global consequences for the democratic way of life and the rule of law”.

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Washington switched its formal diplomatic ties from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 and while it adheres to the one-China policy, it also maintains a strategic alliance with Taiwan, which includes the sale of arms to the self-governed island and a pledge to protect it in the event of any military conflict.