Nicaragua has become the latest country to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favour of China.
Taiwan said it was “deeply saddened”, adding that Nicaragua had “disregarded [their] many years of friendship”.
The decision was widely praised by China, who demands that any country that wants diplomatic relations with it must cut existing ties with Taipei.
It comes as the US State Department on Friday called for democracies to “expand engagement with Taiwan”.
Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway province to be reunified with the mainland one day. However, Taiwan sees itself as a democratically-governed, independent country, though it has never formally declared independence from the mainland.
Taiwan’s list of international allies has dwindled from 21 down to 14 since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in May 2016.
“Nicaragua today breaks diplomatic relations with Taiwan and ceases to have any contact or official relationship,” said Nicaragua’s foreign ministry, adding that it “recognises that there is only one single China”.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying praised Nicaragua’s decision, calling it the “right choice … in line with the global trend” adding that it “has people’s support”.
The US State Department criticised the decision, saying it did not reflect the will of the Nicaraguan people because its government was not freely elected.
The Nicaraguan elections have been panned by some observers as lacking democratic legitimacy, following reports that several presidential contenders had been detained.
“Without the mandate that comes with a free and fair election, [Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s] actions cannot reflect the will of the Nicaraguan people,” said Department Spokesperson Ned Price.
Mr Price also called on “all countries that value democratic institutions” to “expand engagement with Taiwan”. His comments come as the US holds a two-day Summit for Democracy, which Taiwan was invited to – but not mainland China.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it would continue to promote “pragmatic diplomacy” and that it had “the right to exchange and develop diplomatic relations with other countries”.
Before Nicaragua, the Pacific Island nations of Kiribati and the Solomon Islands were the latest countries to cut ties with Taiwan in favour of China in 2019.
China also downgraded diplomatic relations with Lithuania in November, days after the Baltic state allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy there.