regular-article-logo Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Honduras picks China over Taiwan

The allegiance of Honduras may seem a minor matter in the decades-long standoff between China and Taiwan

New York Times News Service Published 27.03.23, 01:28 AM
Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping File Photo

China has persuaded Honduras to abandon formal ties with Taiwan and establish them with Beijing, a blow to Taipei’s international standing days before the Taiwanese president embarks on a Central American tour that will take her through the US. The switch reduced the small number of countries that have ties with Taiwan, the island democracy that Beijing claims as its territory, and was also a rebuff to Washington’s efforts to shore up Taiwan’s allies in Central America. China’s leaders are trying to isolate Taiwan as they demand that it accept unification, while the US has been trying to shore up the island’s security and standing.

The allegiance of Honduras may seem a minor matter in the decades-long standoff between China and Taiwan, but the island’s diplomatic partners are now so few that any abandonment is a serious setback. The statement on Saturday from Honduras’s foreign ministry was terse, saying in part, “Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory and, as of today, the government of Honduras has communicated to Taiwan the severance of diplomatic relations, pledging not to have any further official relations or contact with Taiwan”.


Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, said in a news conference held shortly after Honduras released its statement that “China’s actions to reduce our country’s diplomatic space have severely hurt the feelings of the people of Taiwan and accelerated the contrary direction of crossStrait relations.” A statement on Twitter from the foreign ministry expressed Taiwan’s “deep regret” at the termination of relations. The Chinese foreign ministry also weighed in on Sunday. “China highly appreciates this,” its statement read in part, calling the decision of Honduras “a correct choice that conforms to the general trend and conforms to the will of the people”.

While not directly addressing the move away from Taiwan, Honduran government officials had said days earlier that forging closer links with China was vital to improving the country’s ailing economy. “What we are seeking to establish through the relationship with China is to achieve investment to overcome the challenges facing the country,” Rodolfo Pastor de María y Campos, the Honduran secretary of state, told reporters, noting that it is saddled with more than $20 billion in debt. China and its investors have already shown interest in the country, financing a hydroelectric dam and exploring rail and port projects in the country.

The establishment of China-Honduras relations comes days before Tsai Ing-wen, the President of Taiwan, is to visit Belize and Guatemala, Taiwan’s two remaining Latin American allies, to strengthen ties. President Tsai is due to depart Taiwan on Wednesday on a trip that will also include stopovers in the US, which Beijing has protested. In a post on Facebook, President Tsai said that efforts by China to suppress Taiwan’s international participation would not “detract from the will of the people of Taiwan to adhere to freedom and democracy, and to stride forward to the world”. Only 12 countries and the Holy See now recognise Taiwan, down from 21 in early 2017. The last time that Taiwan lost a diplomatic ally was in 2021, when Nicaragua established diplomatic relations with China.

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