Honduras establishes ties with China after Taiwan break
Honduras Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina Garcia, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang shake hands following the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, at a ceremony in the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing Sunday, March 26, 2023. Honduras formed diplomatic ties with China on Sunday after breaking off relations with Taiwan, which is increasingly isolated and now recognised by only 13 sovereign states, including Vatican City. (Greg Baker/Pool Photo via AP)

BEIJING (AP) — Honduras established diplomatic ties with China on Sunday after breaking off relations with Taiwan, which is increasingly isolated and now recognised by only 13 sovereign states.

Foreign ministers from China and Honduras signed a joint communique in Beijing — a decision the Chinese Foreign Ministry hailed as “the right choice."

The diplomatic victory for China comes as tensions rise between Beijing and the United States, including over China’s increasing assertiveness toward self-ruled Taiwan, and signals growing Chinese influence in Latin America. The new China-Honduras relationship was announced after the Honduran and Taiwanese governments made separate announcements that they were severing ties.

China and Taiwan have been locked in a battle for diplomatic recognition since they split amid civil war in 1949, with Beijing spending billions to win recognition for its “one China” policy.

China claims Taiwan is part of its territory, to be brought under its control by force if necessary and refuses most contacts with countries that maintain formal ties with the island democracy. It threatens retaliation against countries merely for increasing contacts.

The Honduran Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Twitter that its government recognises “only one China in the world” and that Beijing “is the only legitimate government that represents all of China.”

It added that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory, and as of today, the Honduran government has informed Taiwan of the severance of diplomatic relations, pledging not to have any official relationship or contact with Taiwan.”

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told a news conference Sunday that Taiwan had ended its relations with Honduras to “safeguard its sovereignty and dignity."

Wu said that Honduran President Xiomara Castro and her team always had a “fantasy” about China and had raised the issue of switching ties before the presidential election in Honduras in 2021. Relations between Taiwan and Honduras were once stable, he said, but China had not stopped luring Honduras.

Honduras had asked Taiwan for billions of dollars of aid and compared its proposals with China's, Wu said. About two weeks ago, the Honduran government sought $2.45 billion from Taiwan to build a hospital and a dam, and to write off debts, he added.

“The Castro government dismissed our nation's longstanding assistance and relations and carried out talks to form diplomatic ties with China. Our government feels pained and regretful,” he said.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said her government would not “engage in a meaningless contest of dollar diplomacy with China.”

“Over these past few years, China has persistently used various means to suppress Taiwan’s international participation, escalate military intrusion, and disrupt peace and stability in the region,” she said in a recorded video.

Her office spokesperson Olivia Lin said in a statement that relations between the sides had lasted for more than 80 years.

Analysts have warned over the implications of the newly formed ties between China and Honduras. Political analyst Graco Pérez in Honduras said Beijing's narrative would highlight the benefits, including investment and job creation, “but that is all going to be illusory."

Pérez noted that some other countries have established such relations, but “it didn’t turn out to be what had been offered.”

For decades China has funnelled billions of dollars into investment and infrastructure projects across Latin America. That investment has translated to rising power for China and a growing number of allies.

In Honduras, it has come in the form of construction of a hydroelectric dam project in central Honduras built by the Chinese company SINOHYDRO with about $300 million in Chinese government financing.

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