- 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) – Honduran President Chiomara Castro said on Tuesday she has instructed the country’s foreign minister to open official relations with China, a move that threatens to further diminish Taiwan’s dwindling group of allies.
The leader of the Central American country floated the idea of severing ties with Taiwan and starting ties with China during her election campaign, but said in January 2022 that she hoped to maintain ties with Taiwan.
China does not allow countries with which it has diplomatic relations to maintain official relations with Taiwan, which it claims as its own territory without any right to establish state-to-state relations.
If Honduras ended its relations with Taiwan, it would leave the island 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.
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.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has not yet commented, but the Chinese ambassador to Mexico, Zhang Ren, wrote on Twitter 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.
The announcement comes ahead of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to Central America next month, when she is expected to visit Guatemala and Belize.
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 exports of economically important soybeans and beef.
Additional reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa, Ben Blanchard and Sarah Wu in Taipei, and Valentin Hillier in Mexico City; Editing by Sarah Moreland, Shri Navaratnam and Himani Sarkar
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