Taiwan severs ties with Honduras after switching allegiance to Beijing

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan announced Sunday it was cutting ties with Honduras, one of the island’s only remaining official diplomatic partners.

After a period of negotiations, Taipei “decided to sever diplomatic ties with Honduras and suspend bilateral cooperation,” Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told a news conference Sunday morning.

Honduras announced on Saturday that it was severing ties with Taipei after signaling earlier this month that it wanted to establish ties with Beijing. China and Honduras formalized those ties on Sunday.

China has launched a global pressure campaign to hound the remaining countries to recognize Taiwan. Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and says it wants “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party.

“Regardless of our country’s aid and friendship, the Castro government negotiated to establish diplomatic relations with China,” Wu said, referring to Honduran President Xiomara Castro.

“China has always used bright promises to woo our allies, but after achieving its diplomatic goals, most of the promises have not been fulfilled, and some recipient countries have fallen into debt,” Wu said.

Beijing announced formal ties with Honduras on Sunday and hailed the decision. “It is the right choice, in line with the current trend, supported by the people. China greatly appreciates it,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Honduras is the ninth country to cut ties with Taipei since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016.

This gap is limited to 13 countries that recognize Taiwan. Tsai is scheduled to visit the United States this week on a trip that will include stops in Belize and Guatemala. Despite US diplomatic ties with Beijing under the One China Policy, Taiwan has close unofficial ties to Washington.

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Honduras’ decision to fulfill Castro’s campaign promise in 2021 followed weeks of diplomatic back-and-forth over the country’s mounting debt problems. Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina earlier this month described Taiwan as “up to its neck” in $600 million in debt.

On Sunday, Wu said Honduras had “irresponsibly” asked Taiwan for a “huge amount” of billions of dollars.

Wu said Taiwan’s aid to its other allies was generally “project-oriented” and that Honduras’ request was “a bit like a bribe.”

Disputes over Taiwan’s status culminated in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, when Nationalists fled to the island and established an administration there that transitioned to democracy decades later. Since then, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan, but it has never ruled the island, and there is limited support in Taiwan for a union with Beijing.

In recent years, Beijing has strengthened its presence in Central America. Panama, El Salvador and Nicaragua are among the countries that have cut ties with Taiwan since 2017.

In a statement late Saturday, the Honduran foreign ministry announced that the “Government of Honduras recognizes that there is only one China in the world” and described Taiwan as “an inalienable part of Chinese territory.”

Following Honduras’ announcement, the U.S. State Department said it should take note of China’s frequent promises and the U.S.’s continued deepening of its engagement with Taiwan.

On Sunday morning, the news trended on the Chinese social media site Weibo, and the headline “Honduras announces severing of diplomatic ties with Taiwan” was viewed more than 100 million times.

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The end of ties between Taiwan and Honduras shows how Washington’s influence in Latin America is shrinking, Zhong Houtao, an associate professor at the University of International Relations in Beijing, said in an interview with state media on Thursday.

“In Latin America, more and more countries are coming forward and don’t want to follow America’s lead,” Zhang said.

Bee-Lin Wu and Vic Chiang in Taipei contributed to this report.

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