The US Department of State’s decision to summon its envoys to three Latin American nations signified growing concern over China’s influence in the region and the greater importance that Washington attaches to Taiwan, but it might complicate matters, two Taiwanese academics said on Sunday, adding that the outcome of the move was still uncertain.
US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert in a statement on Friday said the department had summoned US Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Robin Bernstein, US Ambassador to El Salvador Jean Manes and US Charge d’Affaires in Panama Roxanne Cabral for “consultations related to recent decisions to no longer recognize Taiwan.”
The recall of an ambassador usually signifies that the situation is serious, said Ding Shuh-fan (丁樹範), an adjunct research fellow at National Chengchi University’s Institute of International Relations.
The department’s move reflects the US’ concerns over the expansion of China’s influence in Latin America, but it also shows that the US Congress’ interest in Latin America and its proposals in support of Taiwan have created pressure on the department, he said.
Taiwan’s relationships with each of the Latin American nations, as well as US-China relations, would become more complicated after US involvement, Ding said.
If China is willing to pay a higher price and continue poaching Taiwan’s Latin American allies, it would anger Congress, which might ask the State Department to consider establishing diplomatic relations with Taiwan, he added.
That would increase the possibility of the US and China entering into a new cold war and engaging in full-scale confrontation, Ding said.
However, if China slows its efforts to gain influence in Latin America, such a scenario would not develop, Ding said.
The department’s move shows that the US is attaching greater importance to Taiwan than it has in the past, said Soong Hseik-wen (宋學文), a professor at National Chung Cheng University’s Institute of Strategic and International Affairs.
Taiwan and China’s economies and national power are unequal and China has chosen to treat Taiwan aggressively, so the US would support Taiwan from the standpoint of a democratic ally, he said.
However, the most important reason for the US’s involvement is China’s influence stretching into its backyard, Soong said.
The US ordered the recall to protect its national interest, and tell China and Latin American nations that Washington would intervene against China’s bullying, he added.
However, Taiwan should not rely on the US or be pleased to see Washington and Beijing clash, he said.
Soong said he still hopes that Taiwan and China would resume dialogue and move in a peaceful direction.
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