Which Countries Recognize Taiwan Independence? Pelosi Trip Sparks Question

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan on Tuesday didn't only draw threats and sanctions from China, but it also sparked the question about where countries stand when it comes to Taiwan.

Officially named the Republic of China (RoC), Taiwan is a multi-island territory of 23.78 million people in the western Pacific Ocean. Taiwan has maintained a separate government from mainland China since 1949, claimed the island as its own territory and repeatedly vowed that it will defend itself against any potential aggression from China.

Taiwan's sovereignty has caused tension with China, where the government doesn't recognize the island as an independent country but as a rebellious province.

China hasn't ruled out the use of military force against the island and the defense ministry recently said that it would "not hesitate to start a war," Agence France-Presse reported. China is running a series of military drills in the South China Sea to from August 2 to August 6 amid Pelosi's Asia trip.

Which Countries Recognize Taiwan Independence?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan on Tuesday sparked the question about where countries stand when it comes to Taiwan. Above, an aerial view shows Taiwanese navy ships (foreground) in Keelung Harbor on August 4, 2022, as China holds military exercises encircling Taiwan. Photo by SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. doesn't officially recognize Taiwan as an independent country under the One China policy but has repeatedly vowed to help the island protect itself against potential attacks. The U.S. recognized Taiwan's independence for 30 years after the Chinese civil war, according to the World Population Review, before Washington officially cut ties with Taipei, the Taiwanese capital, and announced diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979.

As of April, 13 countries—Belize, Haiti, Vatican City, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tuvalu and Guatemala—recognize Taiwan as an independent country, according to World Population Review. According to CNBC TV, Swaziland also recognizes Taiwan.

Nauru briefly stopped recognizing Taiwan as an independent country between 2002 and 2005, and Saint Lucia did the same between 1997 and 2007.

After China's civil war, which ran from intermittently from August of 1927 to December of 1949, the governments in China and Taiwan both claimed to be the legitimate Chinese government, according to the World Population Review.

It started after the nationalist government of Taiwan was initially considered the true government of China since it was the government before armies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chased out China's ruling nationalist government, which later fled to Taiwan, off of the Chinese mainland in 1949.

Consequently, Taiwan was given China's seat at the United Nations and was recognized by many U.N. nations. However, China's communist party, which continued to maintain ruling over mainland China, provided evidence that the nationalist government that fled to Taiwan was not the legitimate government of China because more than 98 percent of Chinese citizens lived on the mainland—around 540 million in 1950, compared to only 8 million in Taiwan.

The claims eventually prompted the U.N. to change its diplomatic recognition from the RoC in Taiwan to the People's Republic of China (PRC) on mainland China. As a result, the U.N. expelled Taiwan in 1971 and recognized the CCP/PRC as the official Chinese government.

Now, if any nation or political entity wants to establish diplomatic relations with the PRC, it must not officially recognize the RoC or Taiwan as independent, according to CNBC TV. This also applies to international organizations such as the U.N. and World Trade Organization.