Saying isolating Taiwan is one of the main factors driving China's interest in Latin America, the US Department of State said on Wednesday that Washington would continue to keep a close eye on Beijing's efforts in the region.
Testifying before a House subcommittee on China's growing economic presence in the Western Hemisphere, US Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega said: "Rivalry with Taiwan always plays into China's courting of Latin American countries."
A key Chinese political objective is to isolate Taiwan, said Noriega, and China will actively court those 12 countries in the Western Hemisphere that recognize Taiwan.
"Worldwide, only 25 countries officially recognize Taiwan. Recently, Dominica and Grenada broke relations with Taiwan in favor of China, and Jamaica opened an embassy in Beijing," he said.
"In the cases of Dominica and Grenada, Chinese promises of assistance followed recognition, with China promising Dominica US$112 million over six years. Taiwan has sought to counter this with its own aid program in the region," he said.
China's interest in Latin America is also driven by its desire to secure reliable sources of raw materials for its continued economic expansion, lessen its isolation in international forums, showcase its emergence as a major power, gain bargaining power in seeking exemptions from some global trade rules and pursue defense and intelligence opportunities, Noriega said.
Noriega's testimony, published on the State Department's Web site, said the US interests in the region are to support democracy, free markets and economic integration.
"That being said, we continue to monitor closely China's outreach to Latin America, as we monitor it elsewhere. We seek to ensure that this activity does not run counter to US goals in the region and is compatible with this hemisphere's hard-won progress towards representative democracy," Noreiga said.
He said the Western Hemisphere is home to the US.
"By virtue of geography, history, culture, demographics and values, the US is linked to our hemispheric partners in ways other countries cannot match," he said.
In response, an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Department of Central and South American Affairs said: "We are very clear what China is doing in the region."
The official, however, declined to say whether the US may, for the sake of its own interests, help Taiwan counter China's all-out diplomatic efforts to woo Taipei's diplomatic allies in Latin America.
Meanwhile, Japan's Sankei Shimbun reported that US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Randall Shriver told a visiting group of lawmakers from Taiwan that the US will deal with contingencies in the Taiwan Strait in compliance with the Taiwan Relations Act.
During a breakfast meeting with the lawmakers on Monday, Shriver suggested US-Japan cooperation to counter any contingencies in the Strait, the paper reported.
The paper quoted Shriver as saying that Beijing sent officials to Washington twice before the "Anti-Secession" Law was adopted on March 14 in an attempt to convince the US of its worth, but the Bush administration had asked China to rethink its plan to pass the law.
Shriver, according to the report, voiced grave concern over Taiwan's security to the group of lawmakers led by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chiang Chao-yi (
Shriver said dealing with cross-strait incidents peacefully was a common strategic objective shared by the US and Japan, the report said.
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