Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Costa Rica late last week and continued on to Panama over the weekend, where he inaugurated a new Chinese Embassy on Sunday as part of his country’s effort to expand its presence in Latin America.
“Panama is an important transport nexus in the Western Hemisphere and has a well-developed financial sector,” Wang said, adding that the country could play a key role in increased trade, investment and diplomacy in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Most nations in the Central American region maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan. The exceptions are Costa Rica, which ended its diplomatic relations with Taipei and initiated ties with Beijing a decade ago during the administration of President Oscar Arias, and now Panama as well.
Panamanian President Carlos Varela called the opening of the Embassy “a historic moment.”
Before heading to Panama, Wang visited San José, where he signed a cooperation memorandum with Foreign Minister Manuel González.
“We have had 10 years of good cooperation” with Costa Rica, Wang told reporters at Casa Amarilla, the Foreign Ministry, where the signing of the memorandum was overseen by President Luis Guillermo Solís on Sept. 15.
Wang’s talks with Gonzalez and Solis took place as the UN Security Council met and condemned North Korea’s latest launch of a ballistic missile over Japan. China is North Korea’s sole ally.
In addition to discussing bilateral issues, Gonzalez said the talks included “a brief review of the situation in the Korean peninsula.” He did not elaborate.
Wang declined to respond to an AFP reporter’s question on North Korea.
The Chinese minister was stopping in Costa Rica and Panama on his way to the United States, to participate in the UN General Assembly in New York. He is due to give a speech there on Thursday.
China already has close investment ties with Costa Rica, where it has built several major projects including the National Stadium in Sabana Park. The new memorandum aims to deepen that relationship with further development of Costa Rican infrastructure, as well as boosting trade and cultural, educational and tourist exchanges, and cooperating on clean energy.