- Honduras seeks official relations with China
- Migration risks further reducing the number of Taiwan’s allies
- Besides Honduras, Taipei has formal relations with 13 countries
- The Taiwanese president is scheduled to visit Central America in April
Tegucigalpa/TAIPEI, March 14 (Reuters) – Honduran President Xiomara Castro said on Tuesday that she had asked the country’s foreign minister to open official ties with China ahead of an important trip by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen to the United States and the Middle East. America.
China does not allow countries with diplomatic ties to maintain official relations with Taiwan, which it claims as its own territory with no right to state-to-state relations, a position Taiwan strongly opposes.
Castro floated the idea of opening ties with China and severing ties with Taiwan during his election campaign, but said he hoped to maintain ties with Taiwan in January 2022.
If the Central American nation were to cut ties with Taiwan, it would leave the island with only 13 diplomatic allies.
Opposition Honduran lawmaker Tomás Zambrano told local television that the decision would affect the country’s relationship with the United States, its top trading partner, noting that many families rely on remittances sent from the north.
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The US does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is its most important international supporter and arms supplier, a constant source of friction in Sino-US relations.
“We have to look at things more pragmatically and look for the best outcome for the Honduran people,” Honduran Foreign Minister Eduardo Reyna told local television on Tuesday.
Castro’s statement, made on Twitter, comes ahead of Tsai’s planned trip to Central America next month, where he is expected to visit Guatemala and Belize. More sensitively, he will pass through the US to meet US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, which will anger China.
Taking questions from lawmakers in parliament on Wednesday, Taiwan’s National Security Bureau vice-chairman Chen Hsin-kung said he “didn’t completely rule out” the possibility that China would try to apply pressure ahead of Tsai’s trip.
Taiwan has accused China of taking on massive amounts of debt from its allies, which Beijing denies.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry expressed serious concern to the Honduran government and urged it to carefully consider its decision and “not fall into China’s trap.”
A source familiar with the situation in Taiwan said the island must “exhaust all avenues” to maintain diplomatic ties with Honduras.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it welcomes the Honduran president’s statement.
“China is ready to establish diplomatic relations with countries in accordance with the one-China policy,” spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press conference on Wednesday.
Zhang Ran, the Chinese ambassador to Mexico, tweeted earlier that the one-China policy, which states that China and Taiwan are part of the same country, is the consensus of the international community.
“Congratulations to Honduras for this perfect decision to embrace that policy! I hope it comes to fruition,” 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 their ties 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.
If the opposition wins the presidential election at the end of April, Taiwan could lose another Latin American ally, Paraguay.
Paraguay will cut ties with Taiwan and open ties with China, which opposition presidential candidate Efrain Alegre hopes will boost vital soy and beef exports.
Reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa, Ben Blanchard, Yimou Lee and Sarah Wu in Taipei, and Valentine Hilaire in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Liz Lee in Beijing; Editing by Himani Sarkar
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