Paraguay 'remains firm' on Taiwan ties after Nicaragua pivots to China

President Mario Abdo Benitez wears a face mask as he arrives for a ceremony in tribute to veterans of the 1932-1935 Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia, at the La Victoria barracks in San Lorenzo, Paraguay June 12, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

ASUNCION, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Paraguay remains resolute about maintaining diplomatic relations with Taiwan despite Nicaragua's decision to shift its allegiance to China, the top adviser to the South American country's President Mario Abdo told Reuters on Friday.

China and Nicaragua re-established diplomatic ties on Friday after the Central American country broke relations with Chinese-claimed Taiwan, boosting Beijing in a part of the world where the United States has strong influence. read more

"It is a decision of the Nicaraguan government. We respect it, but Paraguay remains firm in its position to continue diplomatic relations with Taiwan," Federico Gonzalez, advisor to President Abdo, said in a statement to Reuters.

"For Paraguay this doesn't change anything. Our position remains the same."

China has increased military and political pressure on Taiwan to accept its sovereignty claims, drawing anger from the democratically ruled island, which has repeatedly said it would not be bullied and has the right to international participation.

Nicaragua's break with Taiwan has reduced the island's small group of international allies, and has put renewed focus on whether other countries who maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan could do the same.

Paraguay is the only South American nation that maintains ties with Taiwan, a relationship that has been going on for more than six decades. Taiwan finances various infrastructure projects and agricultural support in the country, and donated medical supplies at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In announcing the donation last June of a million doses of vaccines to Paraguay, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, said that Paraguay's relationship with Taiwan set a strong example for the world.

China, which considers Taiwan a rogue province, says the island's allies, now down to 14, remain with Taipei only because of pressure from Washington and so-called "dollar diplomacy".

Reporting by Daniela Desantis, writing by Hugh Bronstein Editing by Alistair Bell

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