Guatemalan Foreign Minister Mario Búcaro said Tuesday that the Central American country will “always support” Taiwan, after China held its largest-ever military exercises on the autonomous island earlier this month.
Meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen at the presidential office in Taipei, Búcaro said that Guatemala and Taiwan were “like-minded countries” united by a “democratic alliance.”
“Guatemala will always support Taiwan because we firmly believe in the principles of peace, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Búcaro said.
“Peace is non-negotiable, but especially sovereignty is non-negotiable,” he stated.
The comments come just weeks after Beijing wrapped up a barrage of military exercises around Taiwan in response to a visit to the island in early August by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The official did not mention China in his comments, but said his visit to the self-governing island was about “telling the world the importance of showing solidarity with the people of Taiwan, in the belief that only dialogue can prevail against any conflict”.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing that authorities from Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party were fooling themselves by using “diplomatic ties for political manipulation,” that they “cannot stop the historical inevitability of China’s reunification”.
Zhao urged Guatemala to make decisions “in line with the historical trend.”
Tsai pointed out in her remarks that Taiwan was the first “Asian country” that Bucaro visited since she was appointed foreign minister and thanked Guatemala for its diplomatic support after China’s military exercises.
Guatemala is one of 14 countries that maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan and one of three remaining allies in Central America, the other two being Honduras and Belize.
China sees democratically governed Taiwan as one of its provinces with no right to the trappings of a state, a view the Taiwanese government strongly disputes, and has been ratcheting up pressure to win over the island’s remaining friends.
In December, China reestablished ties with Nicaragua, and the government has openly said it is trying to get the number down to zero.
The issue has broader geopolitical implications, as the United States worries that China will step up its activities in Central America.
In the run-up to November’s presidential election in Honduras, a visiting US delegation made it clear they wanted the Central American country to maintain relations with Taiwan.
Now President Xiomara Castro, who floated the idea of leaving Taipei for Beijing during the election campaign, has subsequently remained pro-Taiwan.