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WASHINGTON —The canal project that China wants to build through Nicaragua to compete with the Panama Canal is but one of a number of large projects Beijing envisions in Latin America – to increase its economic and diplomatic influence in a region that historically has been the purview of the United States, according to report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

While Central American countries still relish close economic ties with the U.S., that has not deterred Beijing from pursuing opportunities by creating corporations and helping in the development of these countries’ infrastructures.

The goal is access to Central America’s emerging markets and gain political allies.

It also wants to gain access to dependable resources to maintain domestic economic growth, get Central American countries to diplomatically recognize Beijing instead of Taipei in Taiwan and to open the region to Chinese goods.

The Central American bloc of countries still seeks to maintain relations with Taiwan over mainland China, although that may be changing due to Beijing’s increasing incentives for them to look favorably in its direction.

Chinese investment in constructing and running the proposed canal in Nicaragua, for example, will greatly help facilitate bilateral trade with the Central American countries and China.

The canal would be some 178 miles long and allow ships that displace 400,000 tons to pass. Buoyed by the prospect of this canal, the Chinese also are looking to build railroads between the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Honduras and Columbia in addition – as an alternative to passing goods through the Panama Canal.

As the recent seizure of Cuban missile components on a North Korean ship revealed, the Panama Canal, which continues to be under the influence of the U.S., could subject ships from China, North Korea and Iran to possible detention and seizure of commodities.

The Central American countries economically are poor but Chinese investment has made Beijing’s terms inviting.

This has been the case in Costa Rica, which forms the blueprint of China’s strategic thinking toward Central America.

Because China increased trade it was able to get Costa Rica to revoke its diplomatic recognition of Taipei and instead recognize Beijing. China was able to provide much needed public works and other economic incentives. It was a lucrative offer that Costa Rica could not turn down.

When Costa Rica made this diplomatic shift six years ago, then-Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said the decision was “an act of foreign policy realism which promotes our links to Asia. It is my responsibility to recognize a global player as important as the People’s Republic of China.”

Other Central American countries are looking to see how Beijing’s relationship with Costa Rica works out economically before changing diplomatic recognition to China.

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