The Panamanian Government said today that it would formally inform where the Chinese embassy will be, after responsibly evaluating the options it handles, in the midst of a controversy raised by the possibility of being located in an area of the interoceanic Canal that was a US military base.
A two-paragraph statement signed by Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela indicated "the establishment of diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China has been one of the most important decisions in the history of Panamanian foreign policy."
"It entails the reciprocal establishment of embassies and, therefore, the Panamanian Government will officially communicate the site assigned to the People's Republic of China after having responsibly evaluated the existing options," the letter added.
This statement adds to what was said by President Varela on Wednesday regarding the controversy over the location of the Chinese embassy, a country with which Panama established diplomatic ties in June 2017 to the detriment of Taiwan.
"It is an internal issue handled by one Government with another Government and a decision will be taken at the time (...) different,
several options have been evaluated in Clayton, Amador, in different points, but in the end we always seek consensus because it is a very long-term issue, which goes beyond the term of our government," the president said at the time.
La Calzada de Amador, which was an area controlled by the US when it administered the Panama Canal, which it built and put into operation in 1914 and transferred to the Central American country on December 31, 1999.
The possibility of locating the Chinese diplomatic legation there has generated some controversy in the country, as certain sectors of society consider it "offensive" that a flag other than the Panamanian wave in such a symbolic territory, which was the first military base the US returned to Panama after the signing in 1977 of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties.
A group of citizens circulated a call for a sowing of Panamanian flags this Saturday at the place where the Chinese embassy would supposedly be located on social networks.
This Friday, the president of the Chinese-Panamanian Cultural Center, Fermín Chan, said that the Panama Canal shore is not the most appropriate place to build the new Chinese embassy, since it is a symbol of the Central American country's sovereignty.
"We are Panamanians of Chinese descent and as Panamanians we share the nationality and sovereignty of our country (...) Personally, I do not think that Amador is the place for any embassy, but it is my personal opinion, not the community," he said. Chan, although nuanced that it is a matter between governments.
The controversy over the location of the Chinese Embassy arises
shortly after the Panamanian Government asked the US to respect its sovereign decision to establish relations with China, in response to the call for consultations of the US diplomatic representative in the country once the topic arose.
The government of Donald Trump called its business manager in Panama, Roxanne Cabral, for consultations on August 7 and its ambassadors in the Dominican Republic, Robin Bernstein, and in El Salvador, Jean Manes, for the "recent decisions to stop recognizing Taiwan" in favor of China.
"Panama is a sovereign, neutral country that opens its doors and its canal to the world, the US is the main user of the canal, China is the second and it is part of public life to make the right decisions for the benefit of the people", said Varela, who denied "tensions" with Washington over this issue.