The Trump White House issued a sharply worded statement condemning El Salvador’s decision to cut diplomatic relations with Taiwan and vowed to oppose China’s campaign to intimidate other nations.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the move of “grave concern” to the Trump administration and warned that the U.S. would reevaluate relations with its Latin American neighbor. She accused China of seeking to influence countries through “economic dependency” that leads to “domination, not partnership.”
“The United States will continue to oppose China’s destabilization of the cross-Strait relationship,” Sanders said of Taiwan, “and political interference in the Western Hemisphere.”
The statement represents a challenge to Beijing’s efforts to isolate Taipei from the international community as it seeks to enforce a “One China” policy, which asserts that Taiwan is under its territorial control. The United States does not formally recognize Taiwan’s government, but it has not endorsed the view that the island is under Beijing’s control and maintains extensive military and economic relations with Taipei.
Just 17 nations have diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Tensions between Washington and Beijing have escalated since Trump took office, with a growing trade war that shows no signs of abating despite lower-level talks in Washington this week.
Analysts said the White House statement marked a significant toughening of rhetoric since China helped pressure two other nations — the Dominican Republic and Burkino Faso — to cut ties with Taiwan in the spring.
“You can tell from the statement it’s not just about Taiwan, it’s about Chinese political interference, operations and activities in many countries around the world and particularly concern about what the U.S. considers its backyard,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It’s a very sharply worded statement and it is clearly signaling to China that this kind of behavior is not going to be tolerated.”