Money the deciding factor as Honduras severs ties with Taiwan, kowtows to Beijing

by WorldTribune Staff, March 26, 2023

Well-to-do American political families and Hollywood celebrities are routinely seduced by the streams of cash flowing out of China, so analysts were not surprised when the second poorest country in Latin America opted to jump on the communist cash bandwagon.

Honduras has established diplomatic relations with China and formally cut ties with Taiwan.

Honduras Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang shake hands in Beijing on March 26. / Video Image

China said its foreign minister, Qin Gang, and Honduran Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina signed the deal on diplomatic recognition in Beijing, ending relations with Taiwan dating back to the 1940s.

The Honduran Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday that it recognized there is only one China, with Beijing the sole legitimate government representing it.

“Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory and as of this date, the Honduran Government has informed Taiwan about the severance of diplomatic relations, pledging not to have any official relationship or contact with Taiwan again,” the statement read.

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said that Beijing had relentlessly dangled cash in an effort to persuade Honduras to change its diplomatic recognition.

Speaking on Sunday in Taipei shortly after the announcement, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said the Honduras government of President Xiomara Castro had “always had illusions” about China and China’s “luring” had never stopped.

“The foreign ministry and embassy grasped the relevant information and handled it carefully. However, the Castro government also asked us for billions of dollars in huge economic assistance and compared prices for assistance programs provided by Taiwan and China,” Wu said.

Wu added that the Honduran foreign minister wrote to Taiwan on March 13 demanding a total of US$2.45 billion in aid, including the construction of a hospital and a dam and to write off debt.

“It felt like what they wanted was money, not a hospital,” Wu said.

In a video address released Sunday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan “won’t play the pointless diplomatic money game with China,” and that threats from Beijing won’t undermine the will of the Taiwanese people to maintain democracy and freedom.

“Over the years, China has sought to use investment and access to its lucrative markets to squeeze Taipei’s diplomatic partners, part of its efforts to marginalize and isolate Taiwan. Even so, Taiwan’s unofficial ties with other democratic nations have grown as Beijing’s relations with some Western governments sour,” the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

Asked on Thursday about reports that Beijing had offered Honduras large sums of aid in exchange for diplomatic recognition, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin dismissed the suggestion as “preposterous and groundless,” saying instead that Castro had made the decision “in response to the trend of the world and in light of the realities of Honduras.”

A spokesman for the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. Embassy in Taipei, said, “While Honduras’s action is a sovereign decision, it is important to note the PRC often makes promises in exchange for diplomatic recognition that ultimately remain unfulfilled.” He added, “We strongly encourage all countries to expand engagement with Taiwan.”

With the loss of Honduras, Taiwan now has 13 diplomatic partners, most of them small states in Central America and the Pacific, with the Vatican its only official partner in Europe.

Taiwan will close its embassy in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa as well as its consulate in San Pedro Sula, Wu said at a news conference in Taipei on Sunday.

The severing of Honduras-Taiwan ties came just days ahead of President Tsai’s 10-day visit to Guatemala and Belize, two of Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic partners. On her way to and from the Central American countries, Tsai plans to stop in New York and Los Angeles, where she is expected to meet Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

While there is no evidence that the Honduran decision was timed to nearly coincide with Tsai’s trip, Wu said he was “highly suspicious that they’re correlated.”

“The Chinese always try to manipulate the event to distort our diplomatic relations,” he said.

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