(CNN) The United States has recalled its top diplomats from Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Panama for consultations over those countries' recent decisions to no longer recognize Taiwan.
The State Department announced Friday night that US Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Robin Bernstein, US Ambassador to El Salvador Jean Manes and US Charge d'Affaires in Panama Roxanne Cabral "will meet with U.S. Government leaders to discuss ways in which the United States can support strong, independent, democratic institutions and economies throughout Central America and the Caribbean."
"Panama respects the decision of the United States to recall its Charge d'Affaires in Panama as well as its diplomats in El Salvador and the Dominican Republic," Panama's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement following the US move. "Panama will continue to work with North America on both countries' bilateral agenda."
El Salvador cut ties with Taiwan in August, Dominican Republic in May and Panama last summer. With the recent severed ties, the number of Taipei's formal diplomatic allies is just 17.
China's Communist leadership refuses to maintain diplomatic ties with any country that recognizes the self-governed and democratic Taiwan, an island of 23 million people off China's southeastern coast that Beijing considers a renegade province.
As part of its "One China Policy," the United States does not formally recognize self-governing Taiwan as an independent country and therefore the US does not have an official embassy there. However, the US maintains a de facto embassy in the form of the American Institute in Taiwan, which was established as part of the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which governs America's relationship with the island since the US switched its recognition to Beijing.
Washington's "One China Policy" differs from the policy advocated by Beijing, and the US takes no official position on the future status of Taiwan other than to oppose the unilateral changing of the status quo by either side.
The island remains an important American ally in the region, however. Under President Donald Trump, close unofficial ties between the US and Taiwan have grown stronger.