Sat, Nov 24, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Chinese president to visit Panama after Taiwan snub

DOWN TO BUSINESS:Xi Jinping and Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela are to witness the signing of about 20 deals in a number of sectors

AFP, PANAMA CITY

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is next month to make his first visit to Panama since the Central American country last year switched diplomatic ties from Taiwan.

Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said on Twitter that his government has received official confirmation from Beijing about Xi’s visit.

Xi is to meet Varela on Dec. 3, and the two leaders are to witness the signing of about 20 agreements in a range of sectors from science to infrastructure, the statement said.

Varela already met Xi in Beijing late last year after the change in diplomatic recognition.

In August, El Salvador also switched diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan, as did the Dominican Republic in May, under a campaign by Beijing to split democratic Taiwan from its few remaining diplomatic allies.

China and Taiwan have been governed separately since the end of a civil war on the mainland in 1949, but Beijing sees the island as part of its territory to be brought back into the fold.

Beijing has tried to depict the changes in diplomatic allegiance as economic and not motivated by any desire to undermine Taiwan.

Only 17 countries remain in Taiwan’s diplomatic circle as the nation struggles to fend off Beijing’s growing influence around the globe.

Central America has been a bastion for Taiwan, with Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua still recognizing Taipei rather than Beijing, which has used its economic muscle and promises of investment to entice governments.

China is the second major user of the Panama Canal, behind the US.

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