El Salvador president says China relations fully established

FILE PHOTO: President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele speaks during the Competitive Advantage of Nations Forum in San Salvador, El Salvador, June 27, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - El Salvador’s new president said on Thursday that relations with China were complete and established, giving the strongest signal yet that the small Central American nation will not take up ties again with Taiwan.

“At the moment, we have diplomatic relations with China that are complete, that are established,” President Nayib Bukele said at a business conference in the capital. “We have to recognize China’s status in the world.”

El Salvador, which for many years had close relations with the United States, in August broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China during the previous administration.

Bukele’s government, which took power on June 1, had planned to assess whether that decision should remain in place, a member of his team said after February’s election.

El Salvador followed the Dominican Republic and Panama in switching sides to China, even as the White House warned that Beijing was luring countries with incentives that “facilitate economic dependence and domination, not partnership.”

China later offered El Salvador about $150 million for social projects and 3,000 tons of rice to feed thousands of Salvadorans struck by a drought.

Bukele also said he would seek aid outside of China, while acknowledging its status as the world’s second biggest economy.

“We’re going to look to develop El Salvador wherever we have to look, the United States, Mexico, China, Germany, the European Union,” he said. “We recognize China’s position in the world and we’re working based on that.”

Reporting by Nelson Reneria, Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Marguerita Choy