BEIJING / TAIPEI, Dec. 10 (Reuters) – China and Nicaragua reestablished diplomatic ties on Friday after the Central American country severed ties with China’s claimed Taiwan, boosting Beijing in a part of the world long considered to be the backyard of the United States and angering Washington.

China has increased military and political pressure on Taiwan to accept its claims for sovereignty, angering the democratically ruled island, which has repeatedly said it will not be bullied and that she was entitled to international participation.

China’s Foreign Ministry, announcing the decision after meetings with Nicaraguan finance minister and two of President Daniel Ortega’s sons in Tianjin, northern China, said the country had made the “right choice” .

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The break with Taiwan reduces the number of international allies on the island and is a blow to the United States.

This follows months of worsening relations between Ortega and Washington, and came on the day the US State Department said it had applied sanctions to Nestor Moncada Lau, Ortega’s national security adviser. , alleging that he was exploiting an import and customs fraud program to enrich Ortega’s government members.

The US State Department said Nicaragua’s decision did not reflect the will of the Nicaraguan people because their government was not freely elected.

“We know, however, that this deprives the Nicaraguan people of an unwavering partner in their democratic and economic growth,” spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “We encourage all countries that value democratic institutions, transparency, the rule of law and the promotion of economic prosperity for their citizens to expand their engagement with Taiwan.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Taiwan’s allies – now only 14 countries – remained in Taipei solely due to pressure from the United States and Taiwan’s “dollar diplomacy”, accusations Taipei denied. .

Nicaraguan congress in 2019 accepted a loan of $ 100 million from Taiwan, but the Taiwanese foreign ministry said on Friday that the money, intended for economic reconstruction, had never been disbursed because of ” procedural problems with the allocation requirements “by the bank, which he did not name.

China’s Foreign Ministry, which asked whether China would provide financial assistance to Nicaragua, said resuming relations was a “political decision, certainly not a bargaining chip.”

“WALK TO THE WORLD”

The government of Taiwan has said it is not subject to Nicaragua’s decision.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said the island would not bow to pressure or change its resolve to defend democracy and freedom and “walk towards the world.”

“The more successful Taiwanese democracy, the stronger the international support and the greater the pressure from the authoritarian camp,” she said in Taipei.

A senior Taiwanese official familiar with the matter told Reuters the timing was “provocative” during the Biden administration’s Democracy Summit, in which Taiwan is participating, and a week before four referendums on the island, although they deal with domestic issues like energy and pork imports.

At the now-defunct Nicaraguan embassy in Taipei, in a building in the leafy suburb of Tianmu, staff said the former ambassador was not there. The Nicaraguan flag outside had been removed by the time a Reuters reporter arrived in the middle of the morning.

Ortega first cut ties with Taiwan in 1985, but they were reestablished with the island in 1990 under then-Nicaraguan presidency Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.

A Taiwan-based diplomatic source familiar with the region said the move came as no surprise given Washington’s lack of influence over Ortega due to the sanctions, and that they would look to China for help. help and support was a natural course of action.

“It looks like Ortega has had enough,” the source told Reuters, on condition of anonymity.

Attention will now turn to another friend from Taiwan, Honduras.

Assistants to new President Xiomara Castro said she would not establish ties with China, reversing Castro’s earlier comments that she was ready to start formal relations with Beijing.

A second Taiwan-based diplomatic source told Reuters it was still a question of “monitoring this space” if Honduras eventually went with Beijing.

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Reporting by Yew Lun Tian and Ben Blanchard, Yimou Lee and Sarah Wu; Additional reporting by Josh Horwitz in Shanghai; additional reporting by Mexico City Newsroom; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Gerry Doyle and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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