Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela on Sunday called on Washington to respect his country’s sovereignty after the US recalled its envoys from three Latin American countries in response to them switching diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China, AFP reported.

“We respect the sovereign decisions of other countries and we will always ask the same respect for ours,” Varela said in a statement.

The US on Friday recalled its envoys from El Salvador and the Dominican Republic, as well as its charge d’affaires from Panama, to express its disapproval with the diplomatic move.

Those countries have said their decision stemmed from basic economic realities – China has invested billions to build ports, rail lines and other infrastructure across Latin America.

Taiwan and China have been in a diplomatic tug-of-war in developing countries for years, often using aid and economic support as leverage to gain diplomatic recognition.

Beijing considers self-ruling, democratic Taiwan part of its territory.