Tom Cotton: China’s Bullying Will Only Strengthen U.S.-Taiwanese Ties

US-TAIWAN-POLITICS Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, Chair of Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party and a presidential nominee, speaks during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies June 3, 2015 in Washington, DC.
AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) on Tuesday blasted China for bullying El Salvador to break diplomatic ties with Taiwan — the third diplomatic ally to do so under pressure from China this year.

“Proud, confident nations that aspire to great-power status don’t obsess about the diplomatic relations of their small neighbors,” Cotton said in a statement Tuesday.

The break came after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen visited South America and made a historic stopover visit in the U.S. during her route. Tsai became the first Taiwanese president to visit NASA’s iconic mission control center in Houston, Texas.

Her visit angered China’s leaders, who consider Taiwan to be a rogue breakaway province of mainland China, not a separate country. The U.S. acknowledges China’s position, but provides Taiwan with defense equipment and maintains strong unofficial ties with the democratic nation.

The U.S., under the Trump administration, has been outspoken in its support of Taiwan. President Trump was the first president since 1972 to accept a congratulatory phone call from the Taiwanese president for his election.

Congress has also ramped up its support of Taiwan, passing legislation that calls for more high-level visits between the two countries, and for increased military cooperation.

“This latest round of bullying only highlights how successful President Tsai’s recent trip to the U.S. was,” Cotton added. “The Chinese Communist Party should know that every time it bullies a country into severing ties with Taiwan it only strengthens the bonds between the U.S. and the Taiwanese people.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) also tweeted: “El Salvador has made the wrong decision regarding Taiwan, and it will negatively influence US relations with El Salvador. The US govt must stand up to China’s campaign to bully Taiwan with every tool we have.”

China has ramped up its bullying of Taiwan since the Democratic Progressive Party took power in Taiwan 2016. The DPP supports Taiwanese independence from China, while the opposing party, the Kuomintang, supports unification some day.

Under Chinese bullying earlier this year, Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic have cut ties with Taiwan in favor of allegiance with China. Taiwan now has 17 diplomatic allies.

According to the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, since 2017, El Salvador had been repeatedly demanding large amounts of money from Taiwan to develop a port in the Eastern part of the country. Taiwan dispatched engineers to make an assessment, but decided the project could lead to tremendous debt risks for both countries.

El Salvador’s ruling party, facing a presidential election in February 2019, also solicited Taiwan’s help in raising campaign funds, but Taiwan refused, as it ran contrary to democratic principles.

China has been providing billions in loans to developing countries for infrastructure projects, but with steep terms of repayment. In some cases, the countries have failed to meet them, allowing for China to impose even harsher terms. After Sri Lanka struggled to make payments on its debts, the Chinese government seized control of the port for 99 years. Experts have begun referring to China’s infrastructure loans as “debt trap diplomacy.”

Taiwan’s MOFA urged the people of Taiwan to stand together under Chinese pressure.

“With Taiwan under constant diplomatic pressure from China, MOFA solemnly urges the people of Taiwan to stand together. China’s heavy-handed actions, which are unbecoming of a responsible nation, are clearly having a negative impact on ties across the Taiwan Strait,” it said.

“MOFA also reiterates that China’s suppression of Taiwan has never ceased. Taiwan is a democratic and free country. Taiwan will continue to move forward steadfastly. China’s unreasonable suppression will only serve to strengthen Taiwan’s commitment to pursuing even greater democracy, freedom and sovereignty.”

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