Honduras is taking steps to begin official diplomatic relations with China, President Xiomara Castro announced on Tuesday, in a fresh blow to Taiwan which is recognized officially by only a handful of countries.
In a tweet, Castro said she had instructed the country’s foreign minister “to manage the opening of official relations with the People’s Republic of China.”
Castro, a democratic socialist, won a landslide victory in 2021 after campaigning on a radical agenda to counter years of governance plagued by corruption and scandal. She promised to alleviate poverty and liberalize abortion laws.
During her presidential campaign, Castro said in her foreign policy manifesto that the country was looking to establish diplomatic ties with Beijing.
But in January 2022, her transition team told Reuters that “the new government will maintain relations with Taiwan.”
Her latest tweet suggests she has now settled on switching allegiance to Beijing. It did not make clear whether Honduras would sever ties with Taiwan.
Honduras is one of just a few countries that still has full diplomatic ties with Taiwan, a self-ruled island democracy of some 23.5 million people.
China’s Communist Party claims Taiwan as its own territory despite having never controlled the island and has not ruled out using force to one day take it.
Under leader Xi Jinping, China has ramped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan, including enticing Taipei’s allies to switch their allegiance.
Multiple nations have done just that including mostly recently Nicaragua in 2021 and the Solomon Islands in 2019.
If Honduras breaks off its relations with Taiwan, it would leave it with formal diplomatic ties with only 13 countries, mostly small nations in the Pacific and Latin America.
Following Castro’s announcement, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said Taipei remained a firm partner of Honduras and warned the Latin American nation not to “fall into China’s trap.”
Taiwan has been keen to keep the remaining countries that do recognize it within its fold.
However it has also played down previous diplomatic losses and emphasized that it maintains de facto diplomatic relations with many major Western powers, including the United States.
China’s increasingly assertive approach to Taiwan under Xi has also prompted a flurry of diplomatic support for Taipei including a growing number of visits from Western politicians and officials.