- Honduras seeks to establish formal relations with China
- The move could further shrink Taiwan’s pool of allies
- Besides Honduras, Taipei has official relations with only 13 countries
- The President of Taiwan scheduled to arrive in Central America in April
TEGUCIGALPA/TAEPEE (Reuters) – Honduras President Chiomara Castro said on Tuesday she had asked the country’s foreign minister to open official relations with China, pressing Taiwan ahead of President Tsai Ing-wen’s sensitive visit to the United States and the country’s centre. America.
China does not allow countries with which it has diplomatic relations to maintain official relations with Taiwan, which it claims as its own territory with no right to interstate relations, a position that Taiwan hotly contests.
Castro floated the idea of starting and severing relations with China during his election campaign, but said in January 2022 that he hoped to maintain relations with Taiwan.
If the Central American country ended its relations with Taiwan, the island would be left with just 13 diplomatic allies.
Honduran opposition lawmaker Tomás Zambrano told local television that the decision will likely affect the country’s relationship with the United States, its largest trading partner, noting that many families depend on remittances sent from the north.
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The United States and Taiwan have no formal diplomatic relations, but it is the most important international arms supporter and supplier, and a constant source of contention in Sino-American relations.
“We have to look at things in a very pragmatic way and seek the best benefit for the people of Honduras,” Honduran Foreign Minister Eduardo Reyna told local television on Tuesday.
Castro’s statement, posted on Twitter, comes ahead of Tsai’s planned trip to Central America next month when she is expected to visit Guatemala and Belize. More sensitively, it will cross the United States and meet Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy, which is likely to anger China.
Responding to questions from lawmakers in parliament on Wednesday, Chen Chen Kong, deputy head of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau, said he “never ruled out” the possibility that China might try to apply pressure ahead of Tsai’s visit.
Taiwan accuses China of luring its allies with pledges of huge amounts of loans, which Beijing denies.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it had expressed serious concern to the Honduran government and urged it to consider its decision carefully and not “fall into China’s trap”.
A source familiar with the situation in Taiwan said the island needed to exhaust “all possible avenues” to maintain diplomatic relations with Honduras.
On the other hand, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that it welcomes the statement of the President of Honduras.
“China is ready to establish diplomatic relations with countries in line with the one-China principle,” Chinese spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular press conference on Wednesday.
Earlier, the Chinese ambassador to Mexico, Zhang Ren, tweeted that the one-China principle, which states that China and Taiwan are part of one country, is the consensus of the international community.
“I congratulate Honduras for making the right decision to adopt this principle! We hope it will be implemented,” Zhang said.
In December 2021, Nicaragua severed its longstanding ties with Taiwan, switched allegiance to China and declared that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory.”
The US State Department at the time encouraged countries to maintain relations with Taiwan and said Nicaragua’s decision did not reflect the will of the people because its government was not freely elected.
The US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Honduras.
Taiwan could lose another Latin American ally, Paraguay, if the opposition wins the presidential election in late April.
Opposition presidential candidate Efren Alegre said Paraguay would sever ties with Taiwan and open ties with China, hoping to boost important soybean and beef exports.
Additional reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa, Ben Blanchard, Yimo Li and Sarah Wu in Taipei, and Valentin Hillier in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Liz Lee in Beijing. Editing by Himani Sarker
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