The administration of Honduran President Xiomara Castro has announced that she will travel to China later this week as the Latin American country seeks stronger ties with Beijing.
“At the invitation of President Xi Jinping, I will visit on a special mission with [Foreign Minister Enrique Reina] the People’s Republic of China between June 9 and 13,” Castro said in a Twitter post on Monday. “The refoundation of Honduras demands new political, scientific, technical, commercial and cultural horizons.”
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The trip signifies China’s growing influence in Central America, where countries such as Honduras have sought to balance relations with the United States against their desire for heightened economic engagement with Beijing.
Castro’s visit also comes several months after Honduras established diplomatic ties with China, thereby ending its formal relationship with Taiwan.
A invitación del presidente Xi Jinping visitaré con misión especial, @EnriqueReinaHN, la República Popular China entre 9 al 14 de junio 2023. La refundación de Honduras demanda nuevos horizontes políticos, científicos, técnicos, comerciales, y culturales.
— Xiomara Castro de Zelaya (@XiomaraCastroZ) June 5, 2023
China does not allow countries to maintain formal relations with both Taiwan and Beijing, and China’s economic heft has induced a number of Central American countries to move away from the island in pursuit of stronger ties with China.
Costa Rica formalised relations with Beijing in 2007. Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic have since 2017 done the same. The growing number of countries making the switch has left Taiwan increasingly isolated: It maintains official relations with just 13 countries.
The United States has expressed concern over China’s increasing sway over Central America, where the US has historically exerted influence as the region’s sole superpower.
Central American nations, however, have shown little interest in choosing sides between the US and China, the world’s first and second largest economies.
Reina has said that coffee would be the first Honduran export to the Chinese market. He added on Monday that a number of “cooperation agreements” would be signed during Castro’s trip.
The decision to sever ties with Taiwan reportedly came after the island rebuffed a request from Honduras for a $2.5bn loan to help address debt issues.
Following the establishment of formal ties with Honduras in March, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mao Ning denied that any pre-conditions, such as economic assistance, were attached to the move, stating that diplomatic relations “are not something for trade”.