Nicaragua breaks diplomatic relations with ROC

Taiwan’s foreign ministry today announced that it has terminated diplomatic relations with Nicaragua, after the country notified Taiwan of the decision to switch recognition to Beijing. Nicaragua first established diplomatic relationships with the ROC in 1930. The country recognized Beijing in 1985 before switching back to Taipei in 1990.

Nicaragua is the eighth country to switch recognition to Beijing since President Tsai took office in 2016, following Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Panama, São Tomé and Príncipe, the Solomon Islands, and Kiribati. 14 countries still maintain official diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Taiwan to open diplomatic mission in Lithuania

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu announced that the country will open a diplomatic mission in Vilnius, Lithuania. As a departure from other Taiwanese diplomatic missions in countries where it did not have official recognition, the office will be called the Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania. This is the second office with “Taiwan” in the name, following the establishment of the Taiwan Representative Office in Somaliland last year. Due to Chinese pressure, most countries only accept names such as Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office or Taipei Mission for Taiwan’s de facto embassies and consulates.

Lithuania’s relationship with Taiwan has been gaining steam this year as its relationship with China goes downhill. In March, Lithuania announced that it will set up a trade office in Taipei. In May, Lithuania announced it would terminate its participation in China’s 17+1 cooperation forum with central and eastern European states. In June, Lithuania donated 20,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Taiwan as COVID-19 cases ramped up.

Japan and US donate COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan

As the entire world faces the COVID-19 pandemic starting March 2020, Taiwan managed to keep the virus at bay without much restrictions. However, the number of domestic cases began to soar from 21 cases on May 12, 2021, to 723 on May 22. As of June 5, Taiwan has 10446 cases and 187 deaths. While the number of new cases has now decreased to around 300 to 400 per day, the trend has not compelled the Central Epidemic Control Center to relax its postures. Taiwan has been under level three of four epidemic alert since May 19, which bans most public gathering, events, and indoor dining, suspends in-person schooling, and mandates mask-wearing outside of homes.

While most of the world once considered Taiwan to be a model case for stopping the pandemic, the country lags behind in vaccination. At the end of May, Taiwan has only vaccinated fewer than 2% of the population of almost 24 million. Testing capacity was also limited due to the lack of local cases and had to be ramped up. While the government had ordered 20 million doses through COVAX, Oxford-AstraZeneca, and Moderna, the first shipment of 117,000 doses did not arrive until March 2021. Subsequent shipments so far have not been able to meet public demand as the government prioritizes vaccinating front-line workers and vulnerable populations.

Of particular note, Japan donated 1.24 million of its unused doses to Taiwan on June 4. The move attracted significant political pressure from China, which has been attempting to discredit Taiwan’s governing Democratic Progress Party by simultaneously offering Chinese-made Sinovac vaccines and pressuring other countries and pharmaceutical companies not to supply vaccines to Taiwan.

As a part of the global vaccine sharing initiative, the United States announced on June 3 that it will share 25 million doses of vaccines to countries around the world, including Taiwan.

US and allies intensify support for Taiwan

As the Biden-Harris administration continues to confront the People’s Republic of China, the United States and its allies have been ramping up support for and engagement with Taiwan. While the United States continues to abide by its One China policy and takes no position on the sovereignty of Taiwan, it is no longer shy about interacting with Taiwan’s government and officials domestically and internationally. The Biden-Harris administration, in its push to return to multilateralism, has urged its allies to support Taiwan as well. We include a few examples below.

In the first meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the White House on April 16, the two leaders released a joint statement which “underscore[s] the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.” Media noted that this is the first time since 1969 for a U.S.-Japan joint statement to mention Taiwan.

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“Unofficial” US delegation visits Taiwan as Biden continues confronting China

An officially unofficial U.S. delegation is visiting the country to celebrate the 42nd anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act. The delegation consists of three former U.S. officials who either are close to U.S. Presiden Joe Biden or have deep connections with Taiwan. Senator Christopher Dodd, a Democrat who represented Connecticut from 1981 to 2011, worked closely with then Senator Biden in the Committee on Foreign Relations, leads the delegation. The other two delegation members are Richard Armitage and James Steinberg, both of who served as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State. The delegation met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen as well as other top-level officials to discuss the future of U.S.-Taiwan relations.

The visit comes after the U.S. Department of State relaxes its guidelines regulating contact between the U.S. government and Taiwan. U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken also issued a stern warning two days later in a televised interview, supposedly aimed at China, on changing the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.

All I can tell you is we have a serious commitment to Taiwan being able to defend itself. We have a serious commitment to peace and security in the Western Pacific. And in that context, it would be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change that status quo by force.

U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken, April 11, 2021

China, for their part, responded with the usual rhetoric warning the U.S. and Taiwan not to play with fire. China also sent the largest contingent of warplanes to date into Taiwanese air space the day after Blinken’s interview.

Guyana reverses course on Taiwan office establishment following Chinese pressure

Taiwan’s foreign ministry announced on February 4 that the country will establish a Taiwan Office at Georgetown, the capital of the South American country Guyana. Taiwan and Guyana does not have an official relationship due to Guyana’s recognition of the People’s Republic of China. According to Taipei, the office started provisional operation on January 11.

Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung and the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown applauded the move following Taiwan’s announcement. Guyanese Foreign Minister Hugh Todd confirmed that Taiwan is setting up a trade and investment office and that Guyana continues to follow the one-China policy.

A day later, however, Guyana announced that it has terminated the agreement with Taiwan to set up the office. Taiwan accused China of “bullying” and expressed regret over Guyana’s decision. Speculation suggests that the agreement only became public after the U.S. embassy released a statement welcoming it on February 3.

Latin America remains a battleground for the U.S. and China, the former seeking to maintain its influence while the latter increases its investment and diplomatic reach.

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