Honduras has cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the Latin American country announced on Saturday, saying it recognises “only one China in the world”.
Honduras is the ninth diplomatic ally that Taipei has lost to Beijing since pro-independence president Tsai Ing-wen first took office in May 2016. The move leaves Taiwan recognised by only 13 sovereign states.
“The government of the Republic of Honduras recognises the existence of only one China in the world and that the government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government that represents all of China,” the ministry statement said.
It added that: “Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory, and as of today, the Honduran government has informed Taiwan the severance of diplomatic relations, pledging not to have any official relationship or contact with Taiwan.”
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.
Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, accused Honduran president Xiomara Castro of being misled by Chinese promises of financial aid. Honduras’s move followed negotiations with China on building a hydroelectric dam in the country.
The announcement by Honduras’s foreign ministry comes amid rising tensions between Beijing and the United States, including over China’s increasing assertiveness toward self-ruled Taiwan.
China and Taiwan have been locked in a battle for diplomatic recognition since the sides split amid civil war in 1949, with Beijing spending billions to win recognition for its “One China” principle.
China claims Taiwan as 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 one-China principle is a domestic Chinese edict which includes the government’s claim over Taiwan. Other global governments have corresponding one-China “policies” which dictate the level of recognition it gives China’s principle. Some, like the US and Australia, which have formal diplomatic ties with Beijing, still only acknowledge China’s claim over Taiwan without recognition.
Despite China’s campaign of isolation, Taiwan retains robust informal ties with more than 100 other countries, most importantly the US. The US doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Taiwan but has maintained that Taipei is an important partner in the Indo-Pacific.
Taiwan still has formal ties with 13 nations including Belize, Paraguay and Guatemala in Latin America, and Vatican City. Most of its remaining partners are island nations in the Caribbean and South Pacific, along with Eswatini in southern Africa.
Many of the allies receive financial assistance from Taiwan, or have access to Taiwan’s medical system or scholarships at Taiwanese universities. The ministry of foreign affairs confirmed on Sunday that with the ending of ties with Honduras, 170 students would lose their scholarships at the end of the current semester.
Tsai is scheduled to visit Belize and Guatemala this week. On Sunday, Wu said he didn’t have any evidence that Honduras’s announcement was timed to coincide with the trip but said it was “highly suspicious” and seemed to be intentional.
“The Chinese always try and manipulate events to distort our diplomatic relations,” he said, adding that their earlier information had been that talks between Beijing and Honduras were not nearing an end.
Taiwan’s opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party said it deeply regretted Honduras’s decision to “destroy the 82-year friendship between the two countries”. In a statement on Sunday, the KMT blamed Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive party for adopting “a wrong and radical foreign policy resulting in the severance of diplomatic relations with nine countries in the past seven years”.
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