U.S. recalls diplomats in El Salvador, Panama, Dominican Republic over Taiwan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Friday it had recalled its top diplomats in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Panama over those countries’ decisions to no longer recognize Taiwan.

Washington has expressed concern over the rising number of countries that have cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China.

El Salvador switched ties last month, while the Dominican Republic did so in May and Panama made the move last year.

Self-ruled Taiwan now has formal relations with only 17 countries, almost all of them small and less developed nations in Central America and the Pacific, including Belize and Nauru.

Like most other countries, Washington does not have diplomatic relations with Taipei but is the democratic island’s main arms supplier and strongest international backer.

The White House warned last month that China was luring countries with economic inducements that “facilitate economic dependency and domination, not partnership.”

In a statement on Friday, the U.S. State Department said it had called back U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Robin Bernstein, U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Jean Manes and U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Panama Roxanne Cabral “for consultations related to recent decisions to no longer recognize Taiwan.”

It said the diplomats will meet with U.S. government leaders “to discuss ways in which the United States can support strong, independent, democratic institutions and economies throughout Central America and the Caribbean.”

On Wednesday, U.S. senators introduced legislation that would authorize the State Department to downgrade U.S. relations with any government that shifts away from Taiwan, and to suspend or alter U.S. assistance.

China considers Taiwan to be a wayward province and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Sandra Maler