U.S., China diplomatic efforts overlap in Dominican Republic

SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) - China’s most senior envoy arrived in the Dominican Republic on Thursday to inaugurate a new embassy after the country cut ties with Taiwan, as the U.S. ambassador there urged countries to make diplomatic decisions based on long-term goals.

The United States and China have been increasingly jostling for influence in Central America and the Caribbean during the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Earlier this month, the United States recalled its top diplomats in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Panama over those countries’ decisions to no longer recognize Taiwan.

In her first public appearance back in the Dominican Republic, U.S. Ambassador Robin Bernstein said on Thursday that the fact that she had been recalled to Washington “demonstrates that the United States government takes the situation of its neighbors seriously.”

While Bernstein did not specifically mention Taiwan, she noted she had been asked about China’s role in the region during her trip.

“We respect the sovereignty of these countries, but we hope that they make their decisions based on long term goals,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, arrived in the Dominican Republic on Thursday as part of a trip to speak at the U.N. general assembly in New York. He will inaugurate the Chinese embassy in the Dominican Republic on Friday before heading to Guyana and Suriname.

Central America and the Caribbean have long supported self-ruled Taiwan, which China views as a wayward province. But in August, El Salvador cut ties with the island, following the Dominican Republic and Panama, a sign of China’s growing influence.

(This story has been refiled to fix country spelling in paragraph 7.)

Reporting by Jorge Pineda; writing by Julia Love; editing by Michael Perry