Honduras announces that it will establish diplomatic relations with China

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The president of Honduras, Xiomara Castro, announced that she will promote the opening of “official” relations with China, without specifying whether this will imply a break in traditional ties with Taiwan, which she urged not to fall into the “trap” of Beijing.

On her Twitter account, the President of Honduras, Xiomara Castro, said on Tuesday that she has “instructed Foreign Minister Eduardo Reina to manage the opening of official relations with the People’s Republic of China.”

China celebrated on Wednesday “the pertinent declaration of the Honduran side,” according to the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin.

“China is willing to develop friendly and cooperative relations with Honduras and other countries in the world, based on the one-China principle,” the spokesperson said.

Instead, Taiwan’s foreign ministry on Wednesday urged the Central American country to “consider carefully and not fall into China’s trap and make the wrong decision to damage the longstanding friendship between Taiwan and Honduras.”

On Wednesday morning, an AFP journalist saw the Honduran ambassador in Taipei, Harold Burgos, arrive at the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Neither party ruled on the meeting.

Chinese investments

Under Beijing’s “one China” principle, no country can maintain simultaneous official diplomatic relations with China and Taipei.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory and promises to take it one day.

On February 2, Reina had announced negotiations with China, but to build a hydroelectric dam.

“What we are looking for, in this vision of creating more energy capacities for the country, is that [China] finance Patuca II”, Reina had said then, denying the versions that her country was going to establish relations with Beijing.

Reina met on January 1 with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng in Brazil, within the framework of the inauguration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

With a loan of about 300 million dollars, China financed the Patuca III dam, inaugurated in January 2021 by then-president Juan Orlando Hernández.

>>>>Also read: ‘China’s soft-power in Latin America has strongly intensified’

What kind of relationships?

On January 27, 2022, Vice President of Taiwan William Lai Ching-te attended Castro’s inauguration. Immediately afterwards, Foreign Minister Reina announced that relations with Taiwan were continuing.

Honduran analyst Raúl Pineda told AFP that Castro’s tweet “does not clarify what kind of relations” they would be and that if “they are diplomatic, that will generate a break with Taiwan and a distance with the United States.”

“Right now China-US relations are very tense. From that point of view it would be a very unfortunate decision” by the Castro government, he added.

Alexander Huang, a political analyst at Taipei’s Tamkang University, said Taiwan has limited resources to resist China’s diplomatic might.

“Taiwan’s formal diplomatic allies are relatively small and have limited ability to resist market attractions and business opportunities from mainland China,” Huang told AFP.

The United States and China thought they had a window to improve relations that now seems to have closed. Indeed, after a brief easing of tensions between the two powers, things got complicated again after Washington discovered an alleged Chinese spy balloon, which forced the cancellation of a visit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing.

Meanwhile, Taiwan lives under the constant threat of an invasion by China, which considers this territory its own and repeatedly warns of its intention to retake it, which causes concern in Washington.

Honduras is one of the 14 countries that maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Honduras is one of the 14 countries that maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. © Jose Cabezas/Reuters

Latin America has been the crucial scene of disputes between Beijing and Taipei since they separated in 1949 after the victory of communist forces in the Chinese civil war.

Aligned with Washington, all the Central American countries remained tied to Taiwan for decades. But now only Honduras, Guatemala and Belize maintain ties to the island.

Costa Rica (in 2007), Panama (2017), El Salvador (2018) and Nicaragua (2021) broke with Taipei and linked up with Beijing, which has spent many years seeking to change sides of Taipei’s diplomatic allies.

Only 14 countries in the world recognize Taiwan, including Paraguay, Haiti and seven other small island nations in the Caribbean and Pacific.

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