Ahead of a presidential election in Honduras this weekend, China is accusing the US of “bullying” after Washington reiterated that it wants the small Central American nation to maintain its longstanding diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
China’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday accused the United States of “arm-twisting and bullying behaviour” that will “not will any hearts and minds”.
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Honduras is one of 15 countries that maintains diplomatic relations with self-ruled Taiwan. China views Taiwan as its own territory, with no right to state-to-state ties, a view the government in Taipei strongly rejects.
Xiomara Castro, Honduras’ main opposition left-wing candidate who leads in the latest polling for Sunday’s presidential vote, has previously said that if victorious she would switch diplomatic relations to Beijing over Taiwan. But one of her close aides said on Tuesday no final decision had been made.
In addition to pressuring Honduran presidential candidates over Taiwan, a US official told the Reuters news agency that Washington has warned Central American nations of “some of the risks associated with China’s approach to the region”.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry expressed thanks to the US for its support for ties between Taiwan and its allies, and reiterated the government will respect the outcome of the Honduran election.
Taiwan has warned Honduras not to be taken in by China’s “flashy and false” promises.
Honduras and Taiwan have a relationship dating back to 1941, before the Republic of China government fled to Taiwan after losing the Chinese civil war.
Asked about the United States urging Honduran candidates to maintain relations with Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the United States would not win any friends that way.
He accused Washington of “hegemonic behaviour” in Central America, pointing to US involvement over the years in coups and other plots.
“Two hundred years on, the United States is still dreaming the old dream and treating Latin American countries as within its sphere of influence,” Lijian said. “This bullying behaviour is abhorred by Latin Americans and will surely fail.”
The US maintains substantial sway over what happens in Honduras. Remittances, mostly sent by people living in the US, account for more than 20 percent of Honduras’ gross domestic product (GDP), according to data from the Brookings Institute, a US research group.
This economic reality, coupled with substantial US aid to the country, means Washington has considerable influence over local politicians.
The recent spat between Washington and Beijing over Honduras’ diplomacy is part of an intensifying global showdown between the two superpowers, according to analysts.