Honduras switches its diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China, leaving Taipei recognized by only 13 sovereign states.
Honduras has ended its decades-old diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of relations with China, prompting Taipei to accuse Beijing of using “coercion and intimidation” to lure its few remaining allies.
“The Honduran government recognizes that there is only one China in the world,” the Honduran Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Saturday.
“The government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legal government representing the whole of China,” she said.
“Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory,” she added.
The ministry said Honduras had informed Taiwan of its decision to sever relations and that it would not return to any formal relationship or contact with Taipei.
The move leaves Taiwan recognized 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 without the right to state-to-state relations, a view vigorously contested by the democratically elected government in Taipei.
An end to relations between Honduras and Taiwan had long been expected after Honduras’ foreign minister traveled to China last week and President Xiomara Castro said her government would begin relations with Beijing.
Shortly after the Honduras announcement, China announced that it would open relations with Tegucigalpa.
“China and Honduras just established diplomatic relations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying wrote on Twitter.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said the shift was “part of a series of coercion and intimidation by China”.
China has suppressed the international space [Taiwan] for a long time, unilaterally endangering regional peace and stability,” she read a statement from her office.
Meanwhile, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu 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 have “always had illusions” about China.
The foreign ministries and the embassy absorbed the relevant information and handled it with caution. However, the Castro government also asked us for huge multi-billion dollar economic aid and compared the prices of aid programs offered by Taiwan and China.
Neither the Chinese nor the Honduran statement mentioned the assistance.
Wu added that the Honduran foreign minister wrote to Taiwan on March 13, the day before Castro’s original announcement, asking for a total of $2.45 billion in aid, including the construction of a hospital, a dam, and debt relief.
“I felt that what they wanted was the money, not the hospital,” Wu said.
Honduran Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina told Reuters last week that the $2.5 billion is “not a donation,” but “a negotiated refinancing mechanism.”
Honduras is the ninth diplomatic ally Taipei has lost to Beijing since Tsai first took office in May 2016.
Taiwan still has relations with Belize, Guatemala and Paraguay in Latin America and the Vatican City. Most of its remaining partners are island nations in the Caribbean and South Pacific, along with Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, in South Africa.
Despite China’s campaign of isolation, Taiwan maintains strong informal relations with more than 100 other countries, most notably the United States.
The US State Department said that while the action in Honduras was a sovereign decision, it was important to note that China “often makes promises in exchange for diplomatic recognition that ultimately remains unfulfilled.”
“Regardless of Honduras’ decision, the United States will continue to deepen and broaden our engagement with Taiwan,” she said in a statement.