World

China, U.S. spar after El Salvador breaks off diplomatic relations with Taiwan

China and the U.S. are sparring over El Salvador's decision to drop Taiwan in favour of diplomatic relations with Beijing, with a Chinese spokesperson accusing Washington of trying to deter other nations from making a similar switch.

Taipei is now left with 17 diplomatic allies after losing 3 so far this year

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang, shown speaking at a news conference in Beijing in October 2015, said Wednesday that El Salvador 'made the right decision' to establish ties with Beijing. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

China and the U.S. are sparring over El Salvador's decision to drop Taiwan in favour of diplomatic relations with Beijing, with a Chinese spokesperson on Wednesday accusing Washington of trying to deter other nations from making a similar switch.

Speaking at a daily briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said El Salvador had "made the right decision" and "no one is in a position to point fingers at or interfere in it."

"The U.S. established ties with China nearly four decades ago. However, the U.S. government now on the one hand is thwarting and even deterring other countries from ... establishing normal relations with China," Lu said.

While the United States formally recognizes only China, it remains a close Taiwanese ally and maintains a de facto embassy in the island's capital, Taipei.

Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, is now left with just 17 diplomatic allies as China ratchets up pressure on the island's independence-leaning government to endorse Beijing's "one-China" principle.

El Salvador's announcement Monday prompted Jean Manes,the U.S. ambassador to the Central American country, to tweet that the decision "is worrisome for many reasons" and "without doubt this will impact our relationship with the government."

Threat to cut off aid

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio threatened to block funding for El Salvador, accusing it of being "against the U.S. on everything."

"Why should we keep sending them so much foreign aid? Today I will begin work to end that," Rubio said via Twitter.

The latest war of words between Beijing and Washington comes amid growing tensions between them over trade and technology transfers, Taiwan and Beijing's rapid military expansion.

El Salvador is the third diplomatic ally of Taipei that China has won over this year.

A senior Chinese diplomat said Wednesday he expects Taiwan's last ally in Africa, the Kingdom of eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland, will switch to Beijing soon. 

However, the kingdom's foreign minister said Wednesday that it had no plans to do so.

"They must not play mind games because our relationship with Taiwan is over 50 years, so we will not dump them," Mgwagwa Gamedze told Reuters from Taiwan, where he was on a visit. "We have no desire to change camps since Taiwan has been good to us."

With files from Reuters

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