Taiwan's allies ditching Taipei an 'irresistible trend', China says

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks to the media after a news conference during the National People's Congress (NPC), China's parliamentary body, in Beijing, China March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Thomson Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) - It is in the best interests of Taiwan's remaining diplomatic allies to recognize an "irresistible trend" and ditch Taipei in favor of ties with Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Thursday.

Self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own, has formal relations with only 20 countries, many of them poor nations in Central America and the Pacific. China says Taiwan is simply a wayward province with no right to state-to-state ties.

China and Taiwan have tried to poach each other's allies over the years, often dangling generous aid packages in front of developing nations, although Taipei struggles to compete with an increasingly powerful China.

Panama severed its long-standing relationship with Taiwan last year in a major diplomatic victory for China.

The Vatican is likely next on the list, as the Holy See and China edge closer to an accord on the appointment of bishops.

Wang said there was only one China and Taiwan was an inalienable part of it, something he said was already the long-standing consensus of the international community.

"Upholding the 'one China' principle and not having official contacts with Taiwan has already become one of the international norms for countries to follow," he said on the sidelines of the annual meeting of parliament in Beijing.

"Establishing diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, the only legal representative of the entire Chinese people, and having normal cooperation is obviously the correct choice that conforms to the times," Wang said.

He said it was "the general and irresistible trend" and was in the long-term interests of those countries.

China's hostility towards Taiwan has risen since the election of President Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party in 2016.

It suspects Tsai wants to push for formal independence, which would cross a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing, although Tsai has said she wants to maintain the status quo and is committed to ensuring peace.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait)

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