Taiwan’s foreign minister has accused China of involvement in the plan by Honduras to switch diplomatic allegiance from Taipei to Beijing, while also suggesting that the Central American country had demanded a “high price” to maintain relations with Taiwan.
The comments by Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu on Thursday came a day after Honduras denied it had demanded $2.5bn in aid from Taiwan before announcing a plan to open relations with China.
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Beijing views self-ruled Taiwan as its own territory and has been stepping up efforts to win over just 14 countries that continue to maintain formal diplomatic ties with the island.
Speaking to reporters at parliament, Wu said the situation with Honduras was “not very good”.
“The marks of Chinese involvement are very obvious,” he said. But the island will not engage in dollar diplomacy with China, Wu added.
“We’ve entered a very difficult phase,” he said. “But we’ll work hard until the last minute.”
When asked about Honduras’s alleged $2.5bn aid demand, Wu said “the other side demanded a high price”, but he did not directly confirm the claim reported by the Reuters news agency.
Citing a source familiar with the situation, Reuters reported on Wednesday that Honduras had demanded the funds in aid from Taiwan the day before Honduran President Xiomara Castro tweeted that her government would seek to open relations with China.
China’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment regarding the island’s accusations of its involvement in Honduras’s impending break in diplomatic relations.
Honduran Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina told Reuters that the $2.5bn figure was “not a donation” but rather a request to buy the country’s public debt.
The minister has previously said Honduras’s decision to switch ties to Beijing was partly because the country was “up to its neck” in financial challenges and debt, including $600m it owes to Taiwan.
The move also comes after Honduras said it was negotiating with China to build a hydroelectric dam on the Patuca River, part of a plan for three dams. China has already invested $298m in the first dam in eastern Honduras, inaugurated in 2021.
Wu, answering a legislator’s question on Thursday, said Honduras did not just owe the island money. “We have said to them previously the debt they owe us can be readjusted,” he said.
Honduras has yet to formally end ties with Taiwan but diplomatic sources in Taipei say they expect this is only a matter of time. That would leave the island with diplomatic relations with only 13 countries.
The Honduras crisis is happening ahead of a visit starting next week by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to Guatemala and Belize, which remain allies of Taipei.
Tsai is stopping in New York on the way there and Los Angeles on the way back, where she is expected to meet the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy.
Wu, asked to confirm that meeting, said it was still in the process of being arranged.