BEIJING (AP) – Honduras established diplomatic ties with China on Sunday after severing ties with Taiwan, an increasingly isolated country now recognized by only 13 sovereign states.
The foreign ministers of China and Honduras signed a joint statement in Beijing – a decision that China’s foreign ministry hailed as “the right choice”.
China’s diplomatic victory comes as tensions rise between Beijing and the United States, including China’s growing assertiveness toward autonomous Taiwan, and signs of growing Chinese influence in Latin America. The announcement of new relations between China and Honduras took place after the governments of Honduras and Taiwan made separate announcements severing ties.
China and Taiwan have been locked in a battle for diplomatic recognition since their split amid civil war in 1949, with Beijing spending billions to win recognition for its “one China” policy.
China claims Taiwan as part of its territory, to be brought under its control by force if necessary, and refuses most contacts with countries that maintain official relations with the island democracy. He threatens to retaliate against the states just for the increase in contacts.
Read more: Why are relations between China and Taiwan so tense
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said that the establishment of relations proves that adhering to the “one China” policy wins people’s hearts and is the “general trend”.
“We firmly inform the Taiwan authorities that engaging in separatist activities for Taiwan independence is contrary to the will and interests of the Chinese nation and contrary to the trend of history, and is doomed to a dead end,” he said.
The Honduran Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Twitter that its government recognizes “only one China in the world” and that Beijing “is the only legitimate government that represents the whole of China”.
She added, “Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory, and as of today, the government of Honduras has informed Taiwan to sever diplomatic relations, and pledged not to establish any official relationship or contact with Taiwan.”
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said at a press conference on Sunday that Taiwan had ended its relations with Honduras in order to “protect its sovereignty and dignity.”
Wu said that Honduran President Chiomara Castro and her team had always had “fantasies” about China and raised the issue of switching relations before the Honduran presidential election in 2021. Relations between Taiwan and Honduras were once stable, he said, but so was China. Honduras has not ceased to be drawn.
Wu said Honduras had asked Taiwan for billions of dollars in aid and compared its proposals to China. He added that about two weeks ago, the Honduran government asked for $2.45 billion from Taiwan to build a hospital and a dam and to cancel debts.
“Castro’s government rejected the long-standing help and relations offered by our nation and held talks to form diplomatic relations with China. Our government feels pain and regret,” he said.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said her government would not “enter into a senseless competition for dollar diplomacy with China”.
“Over the past few years, China has continuously used various means to suppress Taiwan’s international participation, escalate military intervention, and disrupt peace and stability in the region,” she said in a video recording.
Read more: US delegation meets with the President of Taiwan, reaffirming the island’s commitment
Her office spokeswoman, Olivia Lynn, said in a statement that the two sides have had relations for more than 80 years.
Analysts have warned of the implications for the newly formed relations between China and Honduras. Honduras-based political analyst Graco Perez said Beijing’s narrative would highlight the benefits, including investment and job creation, “but that would all be fictitious.”
Peres noted that some other countries have established such relationships, but “it is not clear that this is what was shown.”
For decades, China has invested billions of dollars in investment and infrastructure projects across Latin America. This investment has translated into a growing strength for China and an increasing number of allies.
In Honduras, it came in the form of the construction of a hydroelectric dam project in central Honduras built by the Chinese company SINOHYDRO with approximately $300 million in funding from the Chinese government.
Honduras is the ninth diplomatic ally Taipei has lost to Beijing since Tsai first took office in May 2016.
Read more: The President of Taiwan resigns as party leader after losing the local elections
Taiwan still has relations with Belize, Paraguay, and Guatemala in Latin America, and the Vatican City. Most of its remaining partners are island nations in the Caribbean and South Pacific, along with Eswatini in South Africa.
Some of these diplomatic acknowledgments were obtained through financial and technical assistance to Taiwan in the 1980s and 1990s after its extraordinary economic growth, Lorenzo Majorelli, a professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University Jorge Tadeo Lozano in Bogota, Colombia, wrote in his research.
In 1998, Taiwan created a $240 million aid fund for its Central American allies in hopes of retaining their support. Majorelli writes that Taiwanese companies were also encouraged to invest in Central America to cement political ties.
Tsai is scheduled to start the 10-day trip on Wednesday with visits to Guatemala and Belize. Last week, Lynn said her delegation would also make stops in New York and Los Angeles. Taiwan’s Vice Foreign Minister Alexander Yu said earlier that the purpose of Tsai’s visit is to highlight the island’s friendship with the two Latin American countries.
Wu said he had no evidence that the timing of the announcement was related to Tsai’s trip, but noted that “China appears to be doing it on purpose”.
Despite China’s campaign of isolation, Taiwan maintains strong informal relations with more than 100 other countries, the most important of which is the United States. The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but has confirmed that Taipei is an important partner in the Indo-Pacific region.
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