Taiwan loses diplomatic ally as Honduras scrambles to forge ties with China

Honduras is set to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan as the country’s left-wing president establishes official ties with China, a move that will further isolate Taipei.

President Xiomara Castro announced on Twitter Tuesday that she had ordered officials to establish official ties with China, which would result in the Central American country cutting ties with Taiwan.

Castro wrote that the decision was “a sign of my determination to fulfill the government’s plan and expand the borders.”

Beijing has sought to diminish Taipei’s grip on the global stage by blocking its membership in international organizations and luring its allies away with promises of investment and deeper trade ties. China does not allow countries with which it has diplomatic ties to maintain official ties with Taiwan, over which it claims sovereignty.

Honduras-Taiwan relations date back to 1941. The Central American nation was one of Taiwan’s last remaining diplomatic allies, a small group of mostly island nations that Taipei has struggled to preserve with aid programs and investments.

China has successfully poached a number of Taiwan’s Central American and Caribbean allies over the past five years, including Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

Taipei has 13 diplomatic allies and could lose another after next month’s election in Paraguay, where outgoing President Mario Abdo Benítez has urged Taiwan to invest $1 billion to resist “enormous” pressure to seek diplomatic recognition on Beijing to switch

Xiomara pledged to build ties with Beijing in her presidential campaign, prompting concern in Washington given the country’s importance to US national security. Honduras, whose largest trading partner is the US, is home to an air force base vital to Washington’s military efforts to fight Latin American drug cartels.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement it had expressed “serious concern” to the Honduran government and said Taipei has been a “sincere and reliable” ally.

The spokesman added that Taipei has “helped Honduras’ national development” and urged the country “not to fall into China’s trap and make a wrong decision.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin welcomed the announcement, calling the countries’ efforts to establish diplomatic ties with Beijing “the right choice in line with historical trends.”

“China is willing to build friendly and cooperative relations with all countries, including Honduras, based on the ‘one China’ principle,” he said.

Chinese investors have become increasingly active in Honduras in recent years, including supporting the construction of a large hydroelectric power plant in the country. Beijing’s commercial activities in Honduras reflect a broader shift to expand economic and political ties in Washington’s backyard.

The US has also taken steps to strengthen non-diplomatic ties with Taiwan as tensions run high amid Beijing’s increasing military assertiveness over the island.

Next month, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen is expected to meet US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California — rather than in Taipei, as the Republican originally sought, over fears of provoking a harsh military response from Beijing. Tsai will also stop in Guatemala and Belize, two of Taiwan’s remaining allies.

“The timing of the announcement makes sense, just before Tsai heads to the United States and Guatemala to promote Taiwan on the international stage,” said Antonio Yang, a Taiwanese Latin America expert and honorary professor at National Defense University in Tegucigalpa. “From Beijing’s perspective, it’s a good time to undermine Tsai’s foreign policy efforts.”

On Tuesday, the American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s de facto embassy, ​​announced that six congressmen would visit Taiwan on Wednesday and Thursday.

Additional coverage by Maiqi Ding in Beijing

https://www.ft.com/content/6bdb7947-1457-42c0-9504-b6650b6b76cd Taiwan loses diplomatic ally as Honduras scrambles to forge ties with China

Brian Ashcraft

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