Honduras will seek ties with China, disdaining Taiwan

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Honduran President Xiomara Castro announced Tuesday that her government will seek to establish diplomatic relations with China, which would imply breaking relations with Taiwan. The change would leave Taiwan recognized by only 13 countries, as China spends billions to gain recognition for its “One China” policy.

Castro said on his Twitter account that he instructed Honduran Foreign Minister Eduardo Reina to start negotiations with China and that his intention is to “expand the borders freely in concert with the nations of the world.”

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

Reina, the foreign minister, had said that the government weighed the benefits Honduras had received from a good relationship with Taiwan and decided there was no reason to change at this point.

In Taipei, the Foreign Ministry 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 trustworthy cooperative partner for our allies. Honduras is requested to consider carefully and not fall into China’s trap or make wrong decisions that damage the long-term friendship between Taiwan and Honduras.”

Beijing has not commented on the matter.

China claims that Taiwan, autonomous and democratic, is part of its territory and must be under its control. by force if necessary and rejects most contacts with countries that have formal ties to Taiwan, threatening retaliation against countries simply for increasing contacts.

China expels Lithuanian ambassadorit downgraded diplomatic ties and blocked trade with the Baltic country of 2.7 million after boosting relations with Taipei in October 2021. Lithuania has since closed its embassy in Beijing and opened a trade office in Taiwan.

It is 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 to change ties, as it has done successfully with Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua and, more recently, the South Pacific nations, including Solomon Island. Islands.

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

However, budget restrictions imposed by the democratically elected legislature prevent it from spending money on sports stadiums, conference halls and government buildings like China does.

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

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

The only remaining African ally is Eswanti, formerly known as Swaziland, whose Prime Minister Cleopas Sipho Dlamini visited Taiwan this month and expressed support for the island’s readmission to the United Nations and its agencies.

Despite China’s isolation campaign, Taiwan maintains strong informal ties with more than 100 countries.

Earlier this month, Micronesian President David Panuelo accused China of “political war” in a letter to other national leaders and discussed switching China’s diplomatic allegiance to Taiwan in exchange for $50 million to top up the small Pacific island nation’s trust fund.

Panuelo said China had been spying on Micronesia, offering bribes and acting threateningly in an effort to ensure that if it went to war with Taiwan, Micronesia would align itself with China, or at least refrain from taking sides.

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

China denied the accusations, calling them “defamation.”

China’s diplomatic offensive has begun to raise concerns in the US as its rivalry with Beijing sharpens.

China won over Taiwan’s former Pacific allies Kiribati and the Solomon Islands in 2019. signing a security pact with the latter that would allow Chinese navy ships and security forces to maintain a presence in the country. The move raised concerns from the US, Australia and New Zealand, as well as opposition politicians within the country.

Alarmed by such Chinese gains, the Biden administration is proposing to spend billions to keep three Pacific countries in the US orbit.

President Joe Biden’s proposed federal budget released Thursday includes more than $7.1 billion in funding for the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau. The money is included in the $63.1 billion request for the State Department and the US Agency for International Development.

The money, to be paid out over 20 years, would extend agreements with the three states under which the US provides them with essential services and economic support in exchange for military base rights and other preferential treatment. Those agreements were due to expire at the end of this year and next, and US officials say China has been trying to exploit the extension negotiations for its own gain.

The White House said the payments are part of its strategy to “outpace China” and strengthen US alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific.


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