Honduras cuts ties with Taiwan, opens relations with China

Honduras switches diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China, leaving Taipei recognised by just 13 sovereign states.

A group of Honduran and Taiwanese pose for pictures during a gathering in support of the relations between Taiwan and Honduras, at the campus of National Taiwan University, in Taipei, Taiwan.
A group of Honduran and Taiwanese people pose for pictures during a gathering in support of relations between Taiwan and Honduras, at the campus of National Taiwan University, in Taipei, March 25, 2023 [I-Hwa Cheng/Reuters]

Honduras has ended its decades-long diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favour of ties with China, prompting Taipei to accuse Beijing of using “coercion and intimidation” to lure its few remaining allies.

The Honduran foreign ministry said on Saturday that “the government of Honduras recognises the existence of just one China in the world”.

“And the government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government that represents all of China,” it said.

“Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory,” it added.

The ministry said Honduras had notified Taiwan of its decision to break ties and that it would not return to having any relationship or official contact with Taipei.

The move leaves Taiwan recognised by only 13 sovereign states.

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

China views Taiwan as one of its provinces with no right to state-to-state ties, a view the democratically-elected government in Taipei strongly disputes.

Honduras’s ending of ties with Taiwan had been long expected after the Honduran foreign minister travelled to China last week and President Xiomara Castro said her government would start ties with Beijing.

Shortly after Honduras’s announcement, China announced it was opening ties with Tegucigalpa.

“China and Honduras just established diplomatic relations,” tweeted Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said the switch was “part of a series of China’s coercion and intimidation”.

“China has suppressed the international space of [Taiwan] for a long time, unilaterally endangering regional peace and stability,” read a statement from her office.

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu meanwhile said Taipei would close its embassy in Honduras and withdraw its ambassador there.

Wu said Castro, who took office early last year, and her government had “always had illusions” about China.

“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 programmes provided by Taiwan and China,” Wu said.

Neither the Chinese nor the Honduran statements made mention of aid.

Wu added that the Honduran foreign minister wrote to Taiwan on March 13, the day before Castro’s original announcement, demanding a total of $2.45bn in aid, including the construction of a hospital and a dam and debt forgiveness.

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

Honduras Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina told Reuters last week the $2.5bn figure was “not a donation”, but rather “a negotiated refinancing mechanism”.

Honduras is the ninth diplomatic ally that Taipei has lost to Beijing since Tsai first took office in May 2016.

Taiwan still has ties with Belize, Guatemala and Paraguay in Latin America, and Vatican City. Most of its remaining partners are island nations in the Caribbean and South Pacific, along with Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, in southern Africa.

Despite China’s campaign of isolation, Taiwan retains robust informal ties with more than 100 other countries, most notably the United States.

The US State Department said while the Honduran action was a sovereign decision, it was important to note China “often makes promises in exchange for diplomatic recognition that ultimately remain unfulfilled”.

“Regardless of Honduras’ decision, the United States will continue to deepen and expand our engagement with Taiwan,” it said in a statement.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies