China pledges $150 million aid to El Salvador as relationship deepens

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - China will give El Salvador $150 million to spur development of social and technological projects, the Salvadoran president said on Wednesday, the latest sign of deepening ties between the countries that has alarmed the United States.

FILE PHOTO: El Salvador's President Salvador Sanchez Ceren and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 1, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren is returning from his first trip to China since the countries established diplomatic ties in August. Speaking on local television, Ceren said he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the visit and agreed to 13 joint projects, without providing details.

The donation marks China’s latest gambit to make inroads in Central America, a campaign that has drawn the ire of the United States.

Earlier this year, El Salvador cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China, following the Dominican Republic and Panama. The United States promptly recalled its ambassadors in the region.

“This historic meeting between the governments of the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of El Salvador has produced excellent results,” Ceren said. “This confirms that the establishment of diplomatic relations with China is my government’s most important decision in foreign policy.”

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the two countries had agreed to a series of cooperation projects, including in infrastructure and education, when the two presidents met in China last week.

“The friendly cooperation between China and El Salvador is developing smoothly and rapidly,” Hua told a daily news briefing.

“China is willing to provide what help it can for El Salvador’s economic and social development. The relevant help will be focused on people’s pressing welfare needs in El Salvador,” she added.

The date when the funds will be received has not been set, a spokesman for the Salvadoran government said.

China will also donate three thousand tons of rice to support Salvadorans who are reeling from a drought in July and floods in October, Ceren said.

The White House warned in August that China was luring countries with incentives that “facilitate economic dependence and domination, not partnership.”

Self-ruled Taiwan has formal relations with a dwindling number of countries, almost all of them small and less developed nations in Central America and the Pacific.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by Julia Love; Editing by Darren Schuettler