The small African island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe on Wednesday announced that it has ended formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. According to the BBC, the country is cutting ties with Taiwan as it prepares to enter into diplomatic relations with mainland China. In 1997, São Tomé suspended diplomatic ties with China after choosing to officially recognize Taiwan.
Relations between mainland China and Taiwan have been fractured for years, with cold animosity existing between the two. China refuses to engage in diplomatic relations with any country that recognizes Taiwan as a sovereign state.
China welcomed São Tomé’s decision, saying the country was “back onto the correct path of the One China principle,” which is a Chinese foreign relations policy that recognizes Taiwan as an integral part of one, united China.
“We have noted the statement from the government of São Tomé and Príncipe on the 20th to break so-called ‘diplomatic’ ties with Taiwan. China expresses appreciation of this,” a Chinese foreign ministry statement read.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister, David Lee, on Wednesday expressed “regret” over São Tomé’s decision and condemned what he described as “dollar diplomacy,” which he explained as China’s use of financial aid to arm-twist countries into entering diplomatic relations with Beijing.
“We think the Beijing government should not use São Tomé’s financing black hole as an opportunity to push its ‘One China’ principle. This behavior is not helpful [in fostering] a smooth cross-strait relationship.”
São Tomé’s announcement means that only 21 countries, including Swaziland and Burkina Faso in Africa, continue to maintain official ties with Taiwan. In 2006, Malawi announced it would no longer recognize Taiwan and four years later, China finished the construction of a new parliament building in Malawi.