The incoming Honduran government will maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan for now, officials have said, a day after neighbouring Nicaragua broke off diplomatic relations with Taipei to re-establish ties with Beijing.
Prior to winning the Honduran presidential elections late last month, Xiomara Castro of the left-wing Libre Party said she would open diplomatic ties with China. But her team has since backtracked on that stance.
Gerardo Torres, the party’s secretary of international relations and a member of Castro’s transition team, said on Friday that the incoming Honduran government was not about to sever ties with Taipei.
“The new government will maintain relations with Taiwan,” he told the Reuters news agency. “President-elect Xiomara Castro has been clear, these ties will be maintained. Nobody in the party wants to enter government distancing ourselves from the United States.”
As the United States and China jockey for influence, diplomatic ties with Taiwan have become a flashpoint in Central America, where Beijing is looking to deepen links with a region that Washington sees as within its sphere of influence.
Nicaragua broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan on Thursday to resume ties with China.
Nicaragua’s diplomatic switch was part of efforts by President Daniel Ortega’s government to shield itself from recent international sanctions against Managua, a senior US official told Reuters on Friday.
Ortega has faced widespread criticism and sanctions from the US and European Union after his government oversaw a mass crackdown on opposition figures and presidential hopefuls in the lead-up to elections in early November.
After losing Nicaragua, Taiwan has only 14 formal diplomatic allies left globally. These are mostly small countries in the Pacific, Caribbean, Latin America and Southern Africa that receive heavy foreign aid donations and loans.
China views self-ruled Taiwan as its territory, with no right to state-to-state ties, a view the government in Taipei strongly rejects.
The US is prepared to “surge” economic aid to the incoming Honduran government if it maintains ties with Taiwan, the US official said, adding that Washington is uncertain of what Honduras will do going forward.
Rodolfo Pastor, another member of Castro’s transition team, kept open the possibility that Honduras would recognise China in the future. He called Beijing a “new superpower” and said Tegucigalpa was studying the idea of establishing ties.
Pastor also told Reuters that President-elect Castro wanted to diversify Honduras’ international relations, while emphasising that there would be “no imminent change” in the relationship with Taiwan.
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.
Honduras is eager to work with the US on stamping out corruption that fuels emigration north, Pastor said. Both Castro and the Biden administration want to tackle the root causes of migration, he added.
The government of Castro, who is the wife of deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, would work to maintain good relations with Washington, provided they were based on mutual respect and sovereignty, Pastor also said.