MANAGUA (Reuters) - Nicaragua on Tuesday said it wanted to secure bigger international recognition for Taiwan during a visit by President Tsai Ing-wen at a moment of Chinese suspicions the leader of the self-ruled island is seeking formal independence from China.
Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega welcomed his Taiwanese counterpart on a visit that follows complaints by Beijing about the attitude of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump who has questioned the United States’ commitment to China’s position that Taiwan is part of one China.
State media in Nicaragua, which is seeking Chinese investment for a massive canal to compete with Panama’s waterway, said Ortega would continue backing Taiwan.
“We’re still engaged in this battle, which is a just battle, one of principles, so that the people of Taiwan continue to be incorporated in international organizations attached to the United Nations,” Ortega said in the state media of Taiwan, which is not a member of the United Nations.
Trump broke years of U.S. diplomatic tradition as president-elect by accepting a congratulatory telephone call from Tsai on his surprise election win, clashing with the one China policy that Beijing regards as the basis of U.S.-Chinese relations.
The row sparked speculation China could pressure Taiwan’s allies to break ties. Since the mid-1990s, almost a third have done so. Taiwan now has formal relations with just 21, mostly smaller and poorer nations in Latin America and the Pacific.
Tsai, who was traveling with a business delegation, took part in a meeting of the Taiwan-Nicaragua chamber of commerce, and pledged to deepen trade and investment between the two.
“(I want) to thank the allied countries in Central America, especially Nicaragua, because of this constant support for our country to participate in the United Nations,” she said in the Nicaraguan state media transcription of her remarks.
Nicaraguan General Alvaro Baltodano, one of Ortega’s delegates at the meeting with Tsai, said he did not expect her visit to complicate relations with China. “We’ve always had these warm relations with both China and Taiwan,” he said.
Nicaragua in 2013 granted Chinese businessman Wang Jing a 50-year concession to build a canal worth 40 billion dollars, although doubts about the project’s viability persist.
Alongside the presidents of Venezuela, Bolivia and El Salvador, Tsai was due to attend Ortega’s inauguration for a third consecutive term in office on Tuesday.
Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Andrew Hay