The United States is trying to block Honduras from implementing a plan to switch its diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China, sources close to the matter say, hoping the lack of a formal agreement will open the door to a change of heart. The continued diplomatic pressure from the United States comes after Honduran President Xiomara Castro said on Tuesday that his country would establish formal relations with China, following a pledge he made during his 2021 presidential campaign. Later, in 2022, his government reversed the policy. Officials and former officials from the United States and several Central American countries said Castro’s initial announcement was at odds with the way countries in Latin America were publicly shifting their alliances from China to Taiwan. “We don’t know if it will take days, weeks or months,” a US government official told Reuters on background. “Negotiation tactics? We don’t know for sure, but we will continue to plead our case.” Since 2016, when Tsai Ing-wen was elected president of Taiwan, the teams have been replaced by Panama, El Salvador and most recently Nicaragua. They all announced the switch.
“After talking to the president about it, I was given an hour’s notice,” said John Feeley, who was the US ambassador to Panama in 2017.
After Castro’s announcement, Honduras’ ambassador to Taiwan Harold Burgos met with Taiwan’s foreign ministry officials on Wednesday, two diplomatic sources said, as Nicaragua’s ambassador declined during his country’s 2021 transition.
Reuters was unable to learn the outcome of the meeting, although Taiwan’s foreign ministry publicly told Burgos that his country “must carefully consider the matter so as not to fall into China’s trap and make the wrong decision.” China does not allow countries to have diplomatic relations with itself or Taiwan, and considers the island its territory. Beijing considers Tsai a separatist. She herself says that the people of Taiwan should decide their own future.
While the announcement was not a surprise given Castro’s campaign stance, U.S. and Taiwanese officials say they were not surprised by the tweet and its timing. Former and current US officials argue that many of the transition countries have not reaped the economic rewards they had hoped for. “Countries need to know it’s not money for nothing, not free chicks,” Feeley said, referencing a Dire Straits hit song from the 1980s, “reiterating the U.S. government’s constant assertion that the People’s Republic of China promises too much and delivers too little.” China denies this, and the country’s foreign ministry said Thursday that Taiwan’s former allies such as Panama, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador have experienced “rapid improvements” in bilateral relations, bringing them “solid benefits.” If the transfer from Honduras to Beijing is formalized, Taiwan will have 13 diplomatic missions, including Belize and Guatemala. Only allies will exist.
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