Tegucigalpa, Honduras (AP) — Honduran President Xiomara Castro announced Tuesday that his government is seeking to establish diplomatic ties with China in exchange for cutting ties with Taiwan. The change would allow Taiwan to be recognized by only 13 countries.
On his Twitter account, Castro instructed Honduran Foreign Minister Eduardo Reyna to open negotiations with China, saying his aim was “to freely expand borders with the nations of the world.”
Castro said during his presidential campaign in 2021 that he would seek ties with China if elected, but once in power, his government backtracked on those comments. In January 2022, the foreign minister told the Associated Press that Honduras would continue to strengthen ties with Taiwan and that establishing diplomatic relations with China was not a priority for Castro.
Foreign Minister Reina had said that the government had weighed the benefits that Honduras had gained from the rapprochement with Taiwan and decided that there was no reason to change it at that time.
In Taipei, the Foreign Ministry said, “It has expressed serious concerns to the Honduran government. Our country has repeatedly made clear to Honduras that Taiwan is an honest and reliable cooperative partner for our friendly countries. Honduras is requested to carefully consider not to fall into China’s trap or make wrong decisions that could damage the long-standing friendship between Taiwan and Honduras.”
Beijing has not commented on the matter
China claims that self-governing, democratic Taiwan is part of its territory and can be brought under its control by force if necessary. and denies most contacts with countries that maintain formal relations with Taiwan, and threatens retaliation against countries for increasing contacts.
China expels Lithuania’s ambassadorOct. After improving ties with Taipei in 2021, it cut diplomatic ties and froze trade with the Baltic nation of 2.7 million people. Lithuania has since closed its embassy in Beijing and opened a trade office in Taiwan.
It is unclear what changed the Honduran government’s mind. However, China, which is building a large dam in Honduras, has typically used trade and investment as incentives to change relations, as it has done successfully with South Pacific countries including Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua and, most recently, the Solomons. Islands.
Taiwan has been reducing the number of formal diplomatic partners with agricultural experts, vocational training programs and other forms of economic assistance.
However, budget constraints imposed by a democratically elected legislature prevent it from splashing out on sports stadiums, conference halls and government buildings, as China does.
China’s multibillion-dollar “Belt and Road” initiative is financing developing countries’ ports, railways, power plants and other infrastructure with market-rate loans.
The loss of Honduras would leave Taiwan with 13 sovereign states, including the Vatican City, with formal diplomatic ties. In Latin America, it also has relations with Belize and Paraguay, and most of its remaining allies are small, poor island nations in the Caribbean and South Pacific.
The only remaining African ally is Eswanti, formerly known as Swaziland, whose Prime Minister Cleopas Sibo Dlamini visited Taiwan this month to express support for the island’s re-admission to the United Nations and its institutions.
Despite China’s isolationist campaign, Taiwan maintains strong informal ties with more than 100 countries.
Earlier this month, Micronesian President David Panuelo accused China of “political warfare.” A letter to other national leaders discussed switching diplomatic allegiance from China to Taiwan in exchange for $50 million to recharge the tiny Pacific island nation’s trust fund.
Panuelo said that China spied on, bribed and threatened Micronesia in an attempt to ensure that Micronesia would align with or at least side with China if it went to war with Taiwan.
Banuelo said Micronesia would receive a $15 million annual aid package and Taiwan would take over various projects initiated by China, including a national convention center, two state government campuses and two gymnasiums.
China has denied the allegations, calling them a “smear”.
China’s diplomatic offensive has begun to raise concerns in the United States as its rivalry with Beijing sharpens.
China won Taiwan’s former Pacific allies Kiribati and the Solomon Islands in 2019, signing a security pact with the latter. That would allow Chinese naval vessels and defense forces to maintain a presence in the country. The move drew concern from the United States, Australia and New Zealand, as well as opposition politicians within the country.
Alarmed by such Chinese gains, the Biden administration has offered to spend billions Three Pacific nations were to be kept in the US orbit.
President Joe Biden’s proposed federal budget released Thursday includes more than $7.1 billion in funding for the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau. The money is included in a $63.1 billion request for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The payments, made over 20 years, will extend agreements with the three states under which the United States provides them with economic support in exchange for essential services and basic military rights and other preferential treatment. Those agreements were due to expire later this year and next year, and US officials say China is trying to exploit the extension talks for its own benefit.
The White House said the payments were part of its strategy to “compete with China” and strengthen America’s alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region.
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