On Tuesday, president Xiomara Castro announced she had instructed her foreign affairs minister to start negotiations with China and expressed her intention to “expand frontiers freely in concert with the nations of the world”.
The statement was welcomed by China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday. However, as expected, it drew a strong response from Taipei, which is scrambling for international support under increasing threats from China.
Taiwan’s ministry of foreign affairs said it had “expressed serious concerns to the Honduran government”, requesting it “to consider carefully and not fall into China’s trap or make wrong decisions”.
The move will leave Taiwan with only 13 diplomatic allies as more countries have begun to give in to Chinese influence and support its “One China Policy”.
Who are Taiwan’s remaining allies?
Taiwan’s last allies include Belize, eSwatini (formerly known as Swaziland), Guatemala, Haiti, the Holy See (the central administration of the Roman Catholic Church), the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tuvalu.
Honduras’s decision is worrying for Taiwan, which is facing increased aggression from China, especially after Nancy Pelosi’s visit in August last year.
It is not clear what has prompted Honduras’s government to change its mind, but China, which is building a massive dam in Honduras, generally uses trade and investment as incentives for switching ties, as it has done successfully with Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua and, most recently, South Pacific nations like the Solomon Islands.
The country had lost the support of Kiribati and the Solomon Islands in 2019 and Nicargua in 2021.
In Latin America, only Belize and Paraguay have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Why is China isolating Taiwan?
China considers Taiwan a part of its territory and claimed in the past that it will go to war if necessary to bring it under its control. It refuses most contacts with countries that maintain formal ties with Taiwan and threatens retaliation against countries that increase their contacts with Taiwan.
China expelled Lithuania’s ambassador, downgraded diplomatic ties and blocked trade with the Baltic country of 2.7 million people after it boosted relations with Taipei in 2021.
Meanwhile, Taiwan supplies its remaining allies with agricultural exports, vocational training programmes and other forms of economic aid.
But budgetary restraints imposed by its democratically elected legislature limit the island nation’s ability to splurge on infrastructure development as China does.
The restraints prevent it from spending money for sports stadiums, conference halls and government buildings, as China does.
Taiwan maintains robust informal ties with over 100 countries, despite China’s campaign of isolation. But the Asian giant’s diplomatic offensive has begun to raise concerns in the US as its rivalry with Beijing increases.
The Joe Biden administration has proposed spending billions to keep three Pacific countries in the US orbit, fearing China could use its gains in the region to threaten US security.
Additional reporting by agencies