PANAMA CITY – Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said on Wednesday that “no type of tension” exists with the US after that country called its diplomatic representative to the Central American nation home for consultations over the links established by Panama City with China more than a year ago.
“I think that (calling the envoy home) was due to the last decision taken by El Salvador and that the (diplomatic representatives in the) three countries that made the decision to back the policy of a single China, a decision the US made 40 years ago, have been called home for consultations,” Varela said.
The Donald Trump administration on Aug. 7 called home its charge d’affaires in Panama, Roxanne Cabral, and its ambassadors to the Dominican Republic and El Salvador – Robin Bernstein and Jean Manes, respectively – for the recent decisions to cease recognizing Taiwan in favor of China.
Panama broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan and established relations with China in June 2017, while the Dominican Republic and El Salvador did so in May and August of this year, respectively.
Varela said that Trump’s decision to call the diplomats home “is an internal matter of the US government, which we respect,” and he added that relations with China “are going to bring many benefits to Panama and in no way affect the relationship with a strategic partner.”
“Panama is a sovereign, neutral country that opens its doors and its Canal to the world. The US is the main user of the Canal, China is second and it’s part of public life to make correct decisions to benefit peoples,” the Panamanian leader said in remarks to reporters after participating in a hemispheric forum on sustainable development in Latin America.
The president said that “all the products of China (being shipped) to the eastern US coast” pass through the Canal along with “all the US (natural) gas that goes to China.”
Taiwan has considered itself to be a sovereign territory with its own government and political system known as the Republic of China since the end of the civil war between the Chinese nationalists and communists in 1949, but Beijing contends that it is a rebel province and insists that it rejoin the rest of China.
Taiwan has diplomatic relations with just 17 nations around the world, of which nine are in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala.