Wed, Apr 11, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Trio of navy ships arrive in Nicaragua

‘FRIENDSHIP FLOTILLA’:The three warships and their crews are to participate in joint training activities with the Nicaraguan military before visiting other allies

Staff writer, with AFP, CORINTO, Nicaragua

Taiwanese navy personnel present a taekwondo display in Corinto, Nicaragua, on Monday.

Photo: AFP

A Taiwanese navy flotilla on Monday docked in Nicaragua in a high-profile visit highlighting diplomatic ties with Central America and the Caribbean that are shrinking as China presses countries in the region to drop diplomatic relations.

The three vessels — described as being on a training mission — powered into Corinto, a port town on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, in a visit “to strengthen the ties of friendship,” Nicaraguan officials and Taiwanese diplomats said.

Nicaragua in November last year agreed to revise a free-trade agreement with Taiwan that was inked in 2008, lowering tariffs from 15 percent to zero for Taiwanese printed paper, metallic furniture and rubber and plastic shoes.

Some of the 800 crewmembers who disembarked presented a taekwondo display after an inspection by Nicaraguan military brass.

The warships are the Pan Shi, a modern and sleek fast combat support ship; the Pan Chao, an older, US-designed frigate; and the Kuen Wing, a more recent, French-made stealth frigate.

They were to stay in port for three days, with their crews of officers, sailors and cadets participating with the Nicaraguan military in joint training activities, the Taiwanese embassy said.

It is the sixth time Taiwan has sent a “friendship flotilla” to Nicaragua.

After Nicaragua, the ships are scheduled to make stops in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, as well as the Marshall Islands.

Taiwan is gradually running out of ports of call as China presses countries to drop relations with Taipei.

Half of the countries with which Taiwan has bilateral diplomatic relations are in Latin America and the Caribbean, where it is slowly losing ground.

In June last year, Panama cut ties with Taiwan to open relations with China, just as Costa Rica did in 2007.

The parts of Latin America that still have ties with Taiwan are the Central American countries of Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua; the Caribbean states of Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Dominican Republic and Saint Lucia; and the South American nation of Paraguay.

Across the region, the Chinese government’s increased investment and a more assertive foreign policy are being felt in economic and political terms.

That trend has unsettled the US, which views Chinese interest as encroachment in a region that it once regarded as its backyard.

US President Donald Trump is to attend a summit of American leaders in Peru on Friday and Saturday.

White House officials said part of his focus would be on pushing back against “external economic aggression,” taken to mean China’s growing investment in the region.

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