Taiwan Loses Ally of Eight Decades as Honduras Recognizes China

Taiwan and Honduras ended more than eight decades of diplomatic relations as the central American country said it now recognizes the island as part of China.

(Bloomberg) — Taiwan and Honduras ended more than eight decades of diplomatic relations as the central American country said it now recognizes the island as part of China.

China and Honduras will establish diplomatic ties at the ambassadorial level effective immediately, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement, calling it “the right choice” for the Central American country. Taiwan said the Honduran decision was regrettable and hurtful, and linked it to the promise of financial support from China.

“For a long time, our belief has been to support the long-term and substantive development of our allies through forward-looking and pragmatic approaches to the best of our ability,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said. “We will not engage in a meaningless money-diplomatic contest with China.”

Honduras said there is “only one China” and Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory. The People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing all of China, it said in a statement on Twitter. It didn’t mention of reasons behind the decision or financial aid.

The move means Taiwan now has full official diplomatic relations with just 13 countries, mostly around the Caribbean. That cuts the number of friends that can take up issues for the self-run island in international forums like the United Nations, where it lacks a seat.

China will “fully support” the economic and social development of Honduras, Foreign Minister Qin Gang told his counterpart Eduardo Reina in Beijing on Sunday. It will also expand imports from Honduras and encourage Chinese enterprises to invest in its infrastructure, and looks forward to a visit by President Xiomara Castro, according to a foreign ministry statement. 

China also welcomes Honduras to take part in the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as its other programs, the foreign ministry said. Beijing has made large loans to countries such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan as part of its Belt and Road Initiative.

Honduras’s bid to switch official ties to Beijing was driven by financial issues and debt, Reuters reported earlier this month, citing Reina’s comments to a local TV station. Honduras owes Taiwan $600 million, he added.

The Honduran government wanted $2.45 billion in financial aid from Taipei, and compared Taiwan’s monetary support with China’s, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said at a briefing on Sunday. 

The move comes before Tsai starts a visit this week to allies such as Guatemala and Belize, and stops in the US. She has used her nearly seven years in office to garner support from nations who are willing to defy China, which has pledged to bring the island under its control.

China has repeatedly said Taiwan is part of its territory, while the island has asserted it is a de facto sovereign nation. 

“Taiwan’s severance of diplomatic relations with Honduras is part of a series of Chinese attacks and threats,” Taiwanese Presidential Office spokeswoman Lin Yu-chan said in a statement. “These measures cannot change the fact that Taiwan and China are not subordinate to each other, nor can they destroy the will of the people of Taiwan to love freedom and democracy and embrace the world.”

The US, Japan and other nations have recently made bigger displays of support for island and its population of around 23 million people. President Joe Biden has repeatedly stated that the US would defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack, comments that have angered Beijing. In December, the US authorized as much as $10 billion in weapons sales to Taiwan over five years.

Earlier this year, the Czech Republic’s new president, Petr Pavel, drew a stiff rebuke from Beijing after holding a phone conversation with Tsai days after his election. He later said he hopes to meet Tsai, who will leave office in 2024.

The last nation to switch diplomatic relations to Beijing from Taipei was Nicaragua in 2021. The Pacific Island of Kiribati did so in 2019.

Paraguay, among nations that still recognize Taiwan, holds general elections in April. The ruling Colorado Party has historically been pro-Taiwan, and a key driver behind not recognizing China.

–With assistance from Amy Stillman and Li Liu.

(Adds Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang’s comments in paragraph six)

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