TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Taiwan's Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) told a press conference yesterday that in response to Panama's "caving in to" economic pressure from Beijing, Taiwan would immediately close its embassy, pull out all staff, cut all assistance, and terminate all bilateral and cooperation with the tiny Central American country.
"To safeguard our nation's sovereignty and dignity, we've decided to terminate diplomatic ties with Panama immediately," Lee said to the press while also expressing Taiwan's "deep anger and regret" toward Panama's decision to sever ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing.
Lee reiterated that Taiwan will not compete with Beijing in a battle of "checkbook diplomacy."
Despite 107 years of diplomatic relations between Panama and the Republic of China, Lee accused Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela of caving in to Beijing for "economic interests" and ignoring Taiwan's many years of support of its overall development.
Lee said that Panama's jumping ship to Beijing was "most unfriendly" and accused the Central American country of "deceiving the Republic of China government to the last moment." Taiwan's foreign ministry only received notice 40 minutes before Panama held a press conference announcing the diplomatic breakup to the world.
China has sought to isolate Taiwan by luring away its last few remaining diplomatic allies since President’s Tsai’s Ing-wen refused to endorse the “1992 consensus”after her inauguration in May of last year. Sao Tome and Principe broke away its 19-year-old diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China in December of last year after the ROC refused a request for US$200 million dollars in assistance.
In January, Burkina Faso rejected offers of US$50 billion (NT$1.5 trillion) from China to dump Taiwan and switch recognition to Beijing.
On May 10, the de facto Fijian embassy in Taiwan, The Fiji Trade and Tourism Representative Office, unceremoniously shut its doors for the last time in Taipei after 20 years of operation, without a thorough explanation. Four days later, Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama attended the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing, where he met with China's President Xi Jinping.