Once again a foreign nation has dropped anchor in Nicaraguan waters and this time the only country not happy with that is likely to be China.
On Monday the 9th of April 2018, three navy ships from Taiwan arrived at Nicaragua’s main port of Corinto (on the Pacific Coast) to engage in joint training activities with the Nicaraguan military as part of the “Friendship Flotilla” mission, the sixth time Taiwan has sent this type of mission to Nicaragua. Nicaragua’s top military brass was on hand to greet a total of 800 crewmembers and conduct a formal inspection. Some of the crew then put on a taekwondo display on the dock.
The visit to Nicaragua, as well as other Central American countries, is designed to improve Taiwan’s diplomatic relations as China pushes the same Central American countries to drop diplomatic relations with what they consider to be a breakaway province which they have vowed to retake, by force if necessary.
The visiting Taiwan naval vessels are the Pan Shi (modern combat support ship), the Pan Chao (a US-designed frigate) and the Kuen Wing (a French-made stealth frigate). They plan on competing a three day port stay and will participate in joint training activities with the Nicaraguan military before moving on to El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, stopping in at the Marshall Islands on the way back to Taiwan.
Last November, Nicaragua agreed to resurrect a free-trade agreement they signed with Taiwan in 2008 that eliminated a 15% tariff on Taiwanese printed paper products, metal furniture as well as rubber and plastic shoes.
Nicaragua is one of a handful of nations that Taiwan still maintains bilateral diplomatic relations with. In 2007, Costa Rica broke off relations with them and the latest country to formally end ties was Panama who in June 2017 ended their ties with Taiwan before opening relations with China. Taiwan only has formal relations with 20 countries in total. In Latin America, Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua along with the Caribbean states of Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia and Paraguay in South America.