Honduras to seek official ties with China, spurning its long relationship with Taiwan

FILE - Honduras' President Xiomara Castro waves during the swearing-in ceremony for Colombia's President Gustavo Petro in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. Castro announced on Tuesday, March 14, 2023, that Honduras under her administration is opening diplomatic relations with the Peoples Republic of China. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara, File)

(Fernando Vergara / Associated Press)

Honduras to seek official ties with China, spurning its long relationship with Taiwan

Mexico & the Americas

March 15, 2023

Honduran President Xiomara Castro announced Tuesday that her government would seek to establish diplomatic relations with China, which would mean severing relations with Taiwan. The switch would leave Taiwan recognized by only 13 countries as China spends billions to win recognition of its one China policy.

Castro said on her Twitter account that she had instructed Honduran Foreign Affairs Minister Eduardo Reina to start negotiations with China and that her intention was to expand frontiers freely in concert with the nations of the world.

Castro said during her 2021 presidential campaign that she would seek ties with China if elected, but once in power, her government backtracked on those comments. In January 2022, the foreign affairs minister told the Associated Press that Honduras would continue strengthening ties with Taiwan and that establishing a diplomatic relationship with China was not a priority for Castro.

Reina said then that the government had weighed up the benefits Honduras received from a good relationship with Taiwan and saw no reason to change at that point.

In Taipei, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had expressed serious concerns to the Honduran government. Our country has made it clear to Honduras many times that Taiwan is a sincere and reliable cooperative partner to our allies. Honduras is requested to consider carefully and not fall into Chinas trap or make wrong decisions that damage the long-term friendship between Taiwan and Honduras.”

Taiwanese media reported that Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry had summoned Honduran Ambassador Harold Burgos for discussions. Burgos told reporters that he was currently awaiting orders from his government.

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At a daily briefing Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Beijing welcomed the statement from Honduras.

The fact that 181 countries in the world have established diplomatic relations with China on the basis of the one-China principle fully proves that establishing diplomatic relations with China is a correct choice in line with the general trend of historical development and the trend of the times, Wang said.

China claims self-ruled, democratic Taiwan as part of its territory, to be brought under Beijing’s control by force if necessary. The Communist government refuses most contacts with countries that maintain formal ties with Taiwan and threatens retaliation against countries merely for increasing contacts.

China expelled Lithuanias ambassador, downgraded diplomatic ties and blocked trade with the Baltic country of 2.7 million people after it boosted relations with Taipei in October 2021. Lithuania has since closed its embassy in Beijing and opened a trade office in Taiwan.

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It’s not clear what made the Honduran government change its mind. However, China, which is building a massive dam in Honduras, generally uses trade and investment as incentives for switching ties, as it has done successfully with Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua and, most recently, South Pacific nations, including the Solomon Islands.

Taiwan supplies its dwindling number of formal diplomatic partners with agricultural experts, vocational training programs and other forms of economic aid.

However, budgetary restraints imposed by the democratically elected legislature prevent it from splashing out on sports stadiums, conference halls and government buildings as China does.

China’s multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road” initiative has also offered developing nations ports, railways, power plants and other infrastructure, funded by loans provided at market rates.

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The loss of Honduras would leave Taiwan with formal diplomatic ties with just 13 sovereign states, including Vatican City. In Latin America, it also has relations with Belize and Paraguay, with most of its remaining partners being small, poor island nations in the Caribbean and South Pacific.

Taiwan’s sole remaining African ally is Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, whose prime minister, Cleopas Sipho Dlamini, visited Taiwan this month and expressed support for the island’s re-admission to the United Nations and its agencies.

Despite China’s campaign of isolation, Taiwan retains robust informal ties with more than 100 other countries.

Earlier this month, Micronesian President David Panuelo accused China of political warfare in a letter to other national leaders and discussed switching diplomatic allegiance from China to Taiwan in exchange for $50 million to recharge the tiny Pacific island nation’s trust fund.

Panuelo said China had been spying on Micronesia, offering bribes and acting in a threatening manner in an effort to ensure that if it goes to war with Taiwan, Micronesia would be aligned with China, or at least refrain from taking sides.

Panuelo said Micronesia would also receive an annual $15-million assistance package and Taiwan would take over various projects that China had begun, including a national convention center, two state government complexes and two gymnasiums.

China denied the allegations, calling them a smear.