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Honduras Strengthens Ties with China, Rejecting Taiwan

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China and Honduras began formal diplomatic relations on Sunday, in a major diplomatic blow to Taiwan.

Taipei criticized the move, accusing Beijing of “coercion and intimidation” to lure its few remaining international allies.

China’s announcement of the move came shortly after Tegucigalpa announced that it had officially cut ties with Taipei.

“The two governments have decided to recognize each other and establish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The shift to 13 reduces the number of countries that still diplomatically recognize Taiwan, which has lost many Latin American allies in recent years.

China regards the self-governing, democratic island as part of its territory, to be taken back one day — by force, if necessary. Under the “One China” policy, it does not allow countries to recognize both Beijing and Taipei.

According to a video released by state media channel CCTV, Honduras Foreign Minister Enrique Reina and his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang signed a joint statement in Beijing.

“China welcomes (Honduran) President Xiomara Castro’s visit to China at an early date,” Chen said.

Earlier, Reina said that on Castro’s instructions, he “informed Taiwan of the decision to stop diplomatic relations.”

The Honduran Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “The government of the Republic of Honduras recognizes that there is only one China in the world, and that the government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legal government that represents the whole of China.”

Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory.”

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said the change was part of China’s “coercion and intimidation” of Taipei’s allies.

“China has suppressed (Taiwan’s) international sphere for a long time, unilaterally endangering regional peace and stability,” said a statement from her office.

In Beijing, Rina and Ken waved glasses of champagne in front of their countries’ flags, while in Taipei, officials at the Foreign Ministry unfurled the blue and white flags of their former ally.

Pressure and intimidation

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu confirmed the severing of relations, accusing China of offering “financial incentives” to lure the island’s allies.

Earlier this month, Reina said that economic necessity was behind his country’s decision, and that the government of Honduras had asked Taiwan to increase financial aid.

On Sunday, Wu said the Castro government “asked us to provide billions of dollars in financial aid.”

He said Tegucigalpa had asked Taiwan to pay $90 million for the hospital, $350 million for the dam and forfeit $2 billion in debt, adding, “I felt that what they wanted was money, not a hospital.”

Honduras is one of the poorest countries in its region, with about 74% of its 10 million people living in poverty. Tegucigalpa’s move followed negotiations with China over the construction of a hydroelectric dam.

Tsai said in a social media post that Taiwan supports the “fundamental development” of its allies. But, she added, “we will not enter into a meaningless contest of monetary diplomacy with China.”

China’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday that Beijing “is ready to strengthen friendly cooperation with Honduras in various fields for the benefit of our two countries and peoples.”

In response to Tegucigalpa’s move, the American Institute on Taiwan said: “While Honduras’ action is a sovereign decision, it is important to note that the PRC often makes promises in return for diplomatic recognition that are ultimately never fulfilled.”

Recognition diminished

Latin America has been a major diplomatic battleground for China and Taiwan since the two countries split in 1949 after a civil war.

The Honduras declaration continues the trend in the region, with Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica all shifting diplomatic recognition to Beijing in recent years.

The United States remains Taiwan’s most important ally and largest arms supplier, despite its transfer of recognition to Beijing in 1979.

This week, Taiwan confirmed that Tsai will leave Wednesday to visit Guatemala and Belize — two remaining diplomatic allies — while also making stops in New York and Los Angeles.

Analysts have linked the timing of Honduras’ move to Tsai’s trip.

“This is a warning before Tsai starts her visit to Central America on March 29, and I think China will take more diplomatic moves during her visit,” said Ko Yu-jin, a political analyst at National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan.

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