Panama switched diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China on Tuesday, dealing a major victory to Beijing in its drive to isolate the self-governing island it claims as its own territory. In Panama, President Juan Carlos Varela announced the change, which entails breaking off formal relations with Taiwan, saying in a televised address that it represents the "correct path for our country." A joint statement released on Monday evening in Panama said Panama and China were recognizing each other and establishing ambassadorial-level relations the same day, the AP reports.
"The Government of the Republic of Panama recognizes that there is but one China in the world ... and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory," the statement reads, adding that Panama has severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan and "undertakes not to have any more official relations or official exchanges" with the island. Panama had been among the largest economies to have maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The island now has just 20 formal diplomatic partners, 12 of which are in Latin America and the Caribbean. The island is also excluded from the United Nations and many other multinational bodies at China's insistence. (Read more Panama stories.)