What did the U.S. and Taiwan region do to hinder China-Honduras ties?
Updated 11:18, 02-Apr-2023

Honduran President Xiomara Castro will travel to China "soon," according to the country's Foreign Ministry. 

The message came out on Thursday, only four days after Honduras severed its official ties with Taiwan authorities and established diplomatic relations with China.

Before this, there were already signs of unstable ties between Honduras and Taiwan region.

'Dollar diplomacy' of Taiwan

The authorities of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have long maintained the island's so-called "diplomatic relations" through "dollar diplomacy." In Tsai Ing-wen's first year in office, the "secret budget" of Taiwan's foreign affairs department jumped three times.

However, money from Taiwan didn't help Honduras achieve solid development and progress.

Honduran media reported that Rosa Elena Bonilla, former first lady of Honduras, was arrested for embezzlement of public funds in February 2018 and part of the money was "donated" by Taiwan.

The amount of money related to Taiwan's "dollar diplomacy" scandals in Honduras reached more than $20 million, according to media reports in recent years.

In November 2021, Castro, then a leading presidential candidate, said if victorious she would switch diplomatic relations to Beijing over Taipei.

Hearing this, "Taiwan independence" separatist forces began to fabricate news reports, opposing the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Honduras.

The Taiwan Digital Diplomacy Association (TDDA), a Taipei-based organization, has close ties with the the DPP's foreign affairs and foreign aid departments, as well as pro-independence politicians.

In January, Chiayo Kuo, president of the TDDA, admitted on Facebook that they paid public relations fees to local news media which published 90 news articles in Honduras, "highlighting friendship between Honduras and Taiwan" in 2022.

Pressure from the U.S.

Seeing Castro's firm stance in severing ties with Taiwan, the DPP was hoping that the U.S. could pull some strings.

Yan Jin, at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told China Media Group (CMG) that the U.S. is influential in Honduran politics, as it is Honduras' largest trading partner, source of investment and remittances, and hosts a military base camp at Soto Cano Air Base, a Honduran military base.

The number of countries maintaining official relations with Taiwan has been falling in recent years. In March 2020, the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act was signed into U.S. law, with an aim to increase the scope of U.S. relations with Taiwan and push other nations and international organizations to strengthen their ties with the island.

Several days before Honduras' presidential election in November 2021, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Brian A. Nichols rushed to Honduras and made clear to leading presidential candidates that Washington wants the country to maintain its "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan.

Months later, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris met with DPP head Lai Ching-te at the inauguration of Honduran President Castro in January 2022.

In January this year, the U.S. also pulled Taiwan into an initiative to assist education in Honduras. Taiwan media said Taiwan authorities agreed to contribute $2 million to the U.S.-led campaign.

On March 15, President Castro announced that her government would seek to establish diplomatic relations with China. Chris Dodd, the U.S. special presidential adviser for the Americas, visited Honduras soon afterwards in an attempt to stop the "pivot."

But these moves didn't change the trend. The decision by Honduras reduces the number of countries that diplomatically recognize Taiwan to 13.

(Cover: The national flags of Honduras and China. /CFP)

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