Honduras president Xiomara Castro said she has instructed her foreign minister to establish official relations with China, a move that would end its ties with Taiwan and further isolate the island on the world stage.
The Central American country’s switch from Taipei to Beijing would leave Taiwan with formal diplomatic ties with only 13 countries.
China does not allow countries with which it has diplomatic relations to maintain official ties with Taiwan.
Castro, who made the statement on Twitter on Tuesday, had raised the idea of cutting ties with Taiwan and starting relations with China during her electoral campaign.
In the tweet on Tuesday, Castro said the decision was “a sign of my determination to fulfil the government plan and expand borders”.
On Wednesday, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it had expressed “serious concerns” to the Honduran government over Castro’s announcement, urging the country to carefully consider its decision and “not fall into China’s trap” and destroy the long-term friendship between the two nations.
“Taiwan is a sincere and reliable ally. Our country has always assisted Honduras in its national development to the best of our capabilities. China’s only goal in developing relations with Honduras is to shrink our country’s international space, it has no sincere intentions to cooperate for the good of the Honduran people,” the ministry said in a statement.
Honduran foreign minister Eduardo Reina told local TV on Tuesday: “We have to look at things very pragmatically and seek the best benefit for the Honduran people.”
According to Taiwan’s ministry of foreign affairs, Taiwan has diplomatic relations with Eswatini, the Holy See, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, Belize, Guatemala, Haiti, Paraguay, Honduras, Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, St Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Latin America has been a source of tensions between Beijing and Taipei.
Aligned with Washington, all Central American countries had maintained ties with Taiwan for decades. But today only a handful have diplomatic relations with Taipei.
Over the past decade or so, Costa Rica (in 2007), Panama (2017), El Salvador (2018) and Nicaragua (2021) severed ties with Taipei and established relations with Beijing, which had for years lobbied Taipei’s diplomatic allies.
Timothy Rich, an analyst at Washington-based thinktank the Global Taiwan Institute, said the “substantive effects” of Honduras switching ties from Taipei to Beijing “should be limited assuming Taiwan avoids kneejerk reactions”.
“Taiwan cannot compete on aid packages alone and should not myopically focus on formal diplomatic partners that cannot aid its economic or security concerns,” Rich said.
China has intensified pressure to reduce Taiwan’s international standing, saying the democratically governed island is Chinese territory with no right to state-to-state ties.
China sees Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy that runs independently from Beijing, as a renegade province that must “unify” with China and has not ruled out the use of force against the island. Beijing reacts aggressively to attempts by governments to engage with Taipei, lashing out at diplomatic delegations to Taiwan.
The latest diplomatic moves come amid growing concerns by the US and its allies over a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan. The People’s Liberation Army sends daily military sorties across the Taiwan Strait to wear down Taiwan’s military, in what analysts have called “grey zone warfare”.
China flew 28 military planes across the Taiwan strait on Wednesday morning, 16 of which crossed the median line, an unofficial border dividing the two shores, according to Taiwan’s ministry of defense.
Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report
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