Tegucigalpa, Honduras (AP) Honduran President Chiomara Castro announced Tuesday that her government will seek to establish diplomatic relations with China, which would mean severing ties with Taiwan. A shift to Taiwan would leave it recognized by only 13 countries as China spends billions to gain recognition for its “One China” policy.
Castro said on her Twitter account that she had instructed Honduran Foreign Minister Eduardo Reyna to begin negotiations with China and that her intention was to “expand borders freely in coordination with the countries of the world”.
Castro said during her presidential campaign in 2021 that she would seek relations with China if elected, but once in power her government retracted those comments. In January 2022, the Minister of Foreign Affairs told the Associated Press that Honduras would continue to strengthen relations with Taiwan and that establishing a diplomatic relationship with China was not a priority for Castro.
Reina, the foreign affairs minister, said the government assessed the benefits Honduras had from a good relationship with Taiwan and decided there was no reason to change at that moment.
In Taipei, the State Department said it had “expressed serious concerns to the government of Honduras. Our country has made it clear to Honduras many times that Taiwan is a loyal and reliable cooperative partner of our allies. Honduras is requested to think twice and not fall into China’s trap or make wrong decisions that damage the long-term friendship between Taiwan.” and Honduras.”
Beijing has not commented on this issue
China claims that an autonomous democratic Taiwan is part of its territory, and should be brought under its control by force if necessary, It refuses most contacts with countries that maintain official relations with Taiwan, and threatens retaliation against countries just for increasing contacts.
China expelled the Lithuanian ambassadorit downgraded diplomatic ties and blocked trade with the Baltic Sea country of 2.7 million people after it strengthened ties with Taipei in October 2021. Lithuania has since closed its embassy in Beijing and opened a trade office in Taiwan.
It is not clear what made the Honduran government change its mind. However, China, which is building a massive dam in Honduras, is generally using trade and investment as incentives to shift relations, as it has done successfully with Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and more recently the South Pacific nations including the Solomon Islands. carrot.
Taiwan provides its dwindling number of official diplomatic partners with agricultural experts, vocational training programs, and other forms of economic assistance.
However, budget constraints imposed by the democratically elected legislature prevent it from indulging in sports stadiums, conference rooms and government buildings as China does.
China’s multi-billion-dollar “Belt and Road” initiative has also offered developing countries ports, railways, power plants and other infrastructure, financed by loans provided at market rates.
Losing Honduras would leave Taiwan with formal diplomatic relations with only 13 sovereign states, including Vatican City. In Latin America, it also has ties to Belize and Paraguay, as 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, and its Prime Minister Cleopas Sipho Dlamini visited Taiwan this month and expressed support for the island’s readmission to the United Nations and its agencies.
Despite China’s campaign of isolation, Taiwan maintains strong informal relations with more than 100 other countries.
Earlier this month, Micronesian President David Panuelo accused China of “political warfare”. In a letter to other national leaders, they discussed switching diplomatic allegiance from China to Taiwan in exchange for $50 million to recharge the trust fund of the tiny Pacific island nation.
China was spying on Micronesia, Panuelo said, offering bribes and behaving in a threatening manner in an attempt to ensure that if it went to war with Taiwan, Micronesia would ally itself with China, or at least refrain from taking sides.
Panuelo said Micronesia will also receive an annual $15 million aid package, and Taiwan will take over various projects that China had started, including a national convention center, two state government campuses and two gymnasiums.
China denied the allegations, describing them as “defamation”.
China’s diplomatic offensive is starting to raise concerns in the United States as rivalry with Beijing intensifies.
China beat Taiwan’s former Pacific allies Kiribati and the Solomon Islands in 2019, signing a security pact with the latter. It would allow Chinese navy ships and Chinese security forces to maintain a presence in the country. The move alarmed the United States, Australia and New Zealand, as well as opposition politicians within the country.
Alarmed by such Chinese gains, the Biden administration is proposing to spend billions To keep the three Pacific states in the orbit of the United States.
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 the $63.1 billion request by the State Department and USAID.
The money, to be paid out over 20 years, will extend agreements with the three countries under which the US provides them with basic services and economic support in return for rights to establish military bases and other preferential treatment. Those deals were due to expire later this year and next, and US officials say China is trying to exploit extension negotiations to its advantage.
The White House said the payments are part of its strategy to “compete externally with China” and strengthen US alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region.
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