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Taiwan sees 'obvious' China involvement in Honduras crisis

Tan KW
Publish date: Thu, 23 Mar 2023, 02:52 PM
Tan KW
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TAIPEI Taiwan sees China's involvement in Honduras' decision to seek to end relations with the island as obvious and the situation does not look good, with Honduras demanding a "high price", the island's foreign minister said on Thursday.

At stake is China's growing influence in Central America, once a steadfast base for Taiwan and where the United States is worried about Beijing's expanding influence in its backyard.

Honduras denied on Wednesday that it had demanded US$2.5 billion in aid from Taiwan before its announcement to seek to open relations with China, instead saying the country had repeatedly asked Taiwan to buy Honduran public debt.

Speaking to reporters in Parliament, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said the situation with Honduras is "not very good".

"The other side demanded a high price," he added, though he did not directly confirm the US$2.5 billion number, saying only that "the facts will out".

China, which views Taiwan as its own territory with no right to state-to-state ties, has involved itself in the issue, Wu said, without giving details.

"The marks of Chinese involvement are very obvious," he said.

But Taiwan will not engage in dollar diplomacy with China, Wu added.

"We've entered a very difficult phase," he said. "But we'll work hard until the last minute."

China's foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment about Taiwan's accusations on its involvement, which was reported late Wednesday by Taiwan's official Central News Agency.

The Honduras crisis is happening ahead of a visit next week by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen to Guatemala and Belize, which remain allies.

Tsai is stopping in New York on the way there and Los Angeles on the way back, where she is expected to meet US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Wu, asked to confirm that meeting, said it is still being arranged.

Honduras Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina said last week that Honduras' decision was partly because the Central American country was "up to its neck" in financial challenges and debt - including US$600 million it owes Taiwan.

He said on Wednesday that his country had repeatedly requested Taiwan to buy Honduran public debt and that the US$2.5 billion figure was "not a donation" but rather "a negotiated refinancing mechanism".

Wu, answering a lawmaker's question, said Honduras' demands were beyond what Taiwan could do and that it was not just Taiwan who was owed money.

"We have said to them previously (that) the debt they owe us can be readjusted," Wu said.

Honduras has yet to formally end ties with Taiwan, but diplomatic sources in Taipei say they expect it is only a matter of time, and Wu said they had been exploring scenarios for what could happen.

That would leave Taiwan with diplomatic relations with only 13 countries.


  - Reuters


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