The Caribbean country has ended 77 years of diplomatic dealings with Taiwan and opened formal relations with China. The move leaves an ever-dwindling number of nations that support the island China claims as its own.
The Dominican government announced Monday that it had cut off ties with Taiwan and established formal relations with China, becoming the latest country to swap its diplomatic allegiances to the mainland nation that considers the self-ruled island a renegade territory.
"We have taken the decision to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, with the conviction that this decision will be extraordinarily positive for the future of our country," read an official statement from the government in Santo Domingo.
The agreement was signed early on Tuesday in Beijing by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Dominican Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas.
In the agreement, the Dominican Republic recognized that there is "only one China" and that the government of the People's Republic of China in Beijing is the "sole legal government" representing all of China.
The agreement also described Taiwan as an "inalienable part of Chinese territory."
Mainland China and Taiwan split following a civil war in 1949. Taiwan considers itself a sovereign nation, though it has never formally declared independence, while China sees the island as part of its territory.
Santo Domingo and Beijing have consented to send ambassadors to one another's countries, as well as provide "all necessary help" to get the embassies up and running.
New 'chapter' after ties to Taiwan
The new diplomatic partners praised the economic significance of the agreement.
Vargas said the deal "opens a new strategic chapter with sights set on contributing to the progress of our nation." He said he hoped that cooperation in the commerce, tourism and financing sectors would increase.
Vargas' Chinese counterpart, Wang, emphasized that the Dominican Republic "has the largest economy" in Central America and the Caribbean and that it also carries "great influence" in the region.
The decision by the Dominican government to open diplomatic relations with China comes after 77 years of ties to Taiwan.
Taiwan criticized Medina (above) for ignoring Taiwanese partnership with the Dominican Republic over seven decades
Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said he "deeply regrets" the Dominican decision.
"President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic has ignored our long-term partnership, the wishes of the people of the Dominican Republic and the years of development assistance provided by Taiwan, to accept false promises of investment and aid by China," he said at a news briefing after the announcement.
Wu added that China had offered financial incentives to switch. China has offered many developing countries aid packages. In 2015, it also promised to directly invest $250 billion (€20.7 billion) in Latin American countries over the next 10 years.
Waning support for Taiwan
The Dominican Republic started its commercial and political contacts with China in the middle of the last decade. According to government in Santo Domingo, the Caribbean country is China's second-largest trading partner in the region, with bilateral exchange valued at $2 billion.
The Dominican has also received millions in donations to its development programs from Taiwan. At the news conference, Wu said that all cooperation projects with Santo Domingo would be ended immediately in order to "uphold national dignity."
Taiwan's Apple Daily reported that the Dominican decision could be related to its attempt to gain a seat on the United Nations Security Council this year, which requires the support of permanent member China.
The Dominican Republic's announcement follows other Latin American countries that have dropped ties with Taiwan. Panama switched its diplomatic relations from Beijing to Taipei last year, and Costa Rica did likewise in 2007.
Only 19 nations have official ties with Taiwan today, including the Vatican. However, warming relations between the Holy See and China have the pro-independence government in Taipei worried that the Vatican may also reconsider its diplomatic relations.
cmb/cmk (Reuters, EFE, dpa, AFP)