March 26, 2023 | 5:38 am
Honduran Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reyna Garcia, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang shake hands following the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries on March 26, 2023.
After cutting ties with Taiwan, Honduras on Sunday established diplomatic ties with China, which has become increasingly isolated and is now only recognized by 13 sovereign nations, including Vatican City.
The foreign ministers of China and Honduras signed a joint statement in Beijing – hailed by the Chinese foreign ministry as “the right choice”.
The new ties come amid rising tensions between Beijing and the United States, including over China’s assertiveness over self-ruled Taiwan and growing Chinese influence in Latin America. The announcement of new China-Honduras ties comes after the Honduran and Taiwanese governments announced separately that they were severing ties.
The Honduran Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Twitter that its government recognizes “only one China in the world” and that Beijing is “the only legitimate government representing all of China.”
“Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory, and as of today, the Honduran government has pledged to have no official relationship or contact with Taiwan and has informed Taiwan that it is severing diplomatic ties.”
Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said at a news conference on Sunday that Taiwan had severed ties with Honduras to protect its sovereignty and dignity.
Wu said Honduran President Xiomara Castro and her team have always had a “fantasy” about China and raised the issue of changing ties ahead of Honduras’ 2021 presidential election. Relations between Taiwan and Honduras were once stable, he said. Honduras never ceases to fascinate.
Honduras has asked Taiwan for billions of dollars in aid and compared its plans to China’s, Wu said. About two weeks ago, the Honduran government asked Taiwan for $2.45 billion to build a hospital and dam, as well as write off debts.
“The Castro government rejected our nation’s long-standing aid and ties and negotiations to establish diplomatic relations with China. Our government feels pain and regret,” he said.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said her government “will not engage in a meaningless contest of dollar diplomacy with China.”
“Over the past few years, China has continued to use various means to suppress Taiwan’s international participation, increase military incursion, and destabilize peace and stability in the region,” he said in a recorded video.
His office spokeswoman Olivia Lynn said in a statement that the relationship between the two parties spanned more than 80 years.
Analysts have warned of the implications of the newly formed relationship between China and Honduras. Graco Perez, a political analyst in Honduras, said Beijing’s narrative highlights benefits including investment and job creation, “but it will all be illusory.”
Some other countries have established such relationships, but “it hasn’t turned out to be a given,” Peres noted.
China has poured billions of dollars into investment and infrastructure projects across Latin America for decades. That investment has become a rising power for China and a growing number of allies.
In Honduras, this has come in the form of the construction of a hydroelectric dam project in central Honduras, built by the Chinese company SINOHYDRO with roughly $300 million in Chinese government funding.
Honduras is the ninth diplomatic ally Taipei has lost to Beijing since pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen took office in May 2016.
China and Taiwan have been locked in a battle for diplomatic recognition since they split in 1949 amid a civil war.
China says Taiwan is part of its territory, which can be brought under its control by force if necessary, and denies most contacts with countries that maintain formal relations with the island’s democracies. It threatens retaliation against countries for increasing ties.
Taiwan still has ties to Belize, Paraguay and Guatemala in Latin America, as well as the Vatican City. Most of its remaining partners are island nations in the Caribbean and South Pacific, along with Eswatini in South Africa.
Tsai begins a 10-day trip on Wednesday, visiting Guatemala and Belize. His representatives will also make stops in New York and Los Angeles, Lin said last week. Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Yue earlier said the purpose of Sai’s visit was to highlight the island’s friendship with the two Latin American countries.
Wu said he had no evidence that the timing of the announcement was related to Sai’s trip, but noted that “China seems to be doing this on purpose.”
Despite China’s isolationist campaign, Taiwan maintains strong informal ties with more than 100 other countries, most notably the United States. The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but Taipei is an important partner in the Indo-Pacific region.