The US is trying to discourage Honduras from following through on its plan to switch diplomatic allegiance from Taipei to Beijing, hoping that the lack of a formal agreement might leave the door open for a change of heart, sources with knowledge of the matter said.

The ongoing US diplomatic pressure comes after Honduran President Xiomara Castro on Tuesday wrote on Twitter that her country would establish formal ties with China, following up on a pledge she made in her presidential campaign in 2021.

Last year, her government appeared to walk back the policy.


Officials and former officials from the US and several Central American countries said Castro’s provisional announcement contrasted with how countries in the region have tended to make informal shifts in alliance from China to Taiwan.

US Pushes Honduras To Stay Aligned With Taipei
The flags of the Republic of China, left, and Honduras fly outside the Taiwanese embassy in Tegucigalpa on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

“We truly don’t know whether it will be days or weeks or months,” a US government official said. “Is it a negotiating tactic? We don’t know for sure, but we will continue to make our case.”

However, since Tsai Ing-wen was elected president in 2016, Panama, El Salvador, and most recently, Nicaragua, have officially changed sides. All announced the switch as a fait accompli.

“I got an hour heads up, even after I had spoken to the president about it,” said John Feeley, who was US ambassador to Panama when it made the switch in 2017.

Honduras Will Seek Ties With China, Spurning Taiwan
In this image taken from video by Taiwanese EBC, Harold Efrain Burgos Castro, Honduras Ambassador to Taipei waves to journalists as he arrives at the Foreign Ministry in Taipei, Wednesday, March 15, 2023. (EBC via AP)

In another unusual turn, Honduran Ambassador to Taiwan Harold Burgos met with Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials a day after Castro’s announcement, something which Nicaragua’s ambassador had declined to do during her country’s switch in 2021, two diplomatic sources in Taipei said.

Reuters could not ascertain the outcome of the meeting, although the foreign ministry said it told Burgos that his country should “carefully consider the matter so as not to fall into China’s snare and make a flawed decision.”

China does not allow countries to hold diplomatic ties with itself and Taiwan.

US and Taiwanese officials say that although the announcement was not surprising given Castro’s campaign stance, the Twitter post and its timing caught them off-guard.

Former and current US officials are quick to argue that many countries that have made the shift have not reaped the economic benefits they were hoping for.

“Countries should know that it is not money for nothing and chicks for free,” Feeley said, referring to a 1980s Dire Straits song, reiterating a point the US government has continued to make that Beijing “over-promises and under-delivers.”

Beijing disputes this.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday said that former allies of Taiwan, auch as Panama, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador, have seen “rapid development” in bilateral relations, bringing them “tangible benefits.”

If Honduras’ switch to Beijing were to be formalized, Taiwan would have 13 UN-recognized diplomatic allies, including Belize and Guatemala, as well as Somaliland.

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