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Diplomatic ties with Taiwan have become a flashpoint in Central America, where Beijing is looking to deepen links.
Honduras President Xiomara Castro has said she wants her country to open official diplomatic ties with China, in a move that would end its official relationship with the self-ruled island of Taiwan.
Castro, who said during her election campaign in 2021 that she would switch ties to Beijing before later backtracking, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night that she had instructed her foreign minister to begin the process of recognising the People’s Republic of China.
The move was “a sign of my determination to comply with the Government Plan and expand borders freely,” she wrote.
Some of the last few countries to recognise democratic Taiwan over China are in Central America and the Pacific. Beijing has been trying to deepen links with Taipei’s remaining allies since Tsai Ing-wen was first elected president in 2016 and several Pacific countries, including the Solomon Islands made the switch in 2019.
In Central America, a region that the United States has long seen as within its sphere of influence, Nicaragua broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 2021. If Honduras does make the switch, Taiwan will be left with just 13 formal diplomatic allies around the world, compared with 22 when Tsai took office.
“Central American recognition of Taiwan is a legacy of the Cold War,” Bruno Binetti, a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics and an expert in China relations in Latin America, told Al Jazeera in emailed comments. “Much has changed since then, including China’s spectacular economic rise. Decades ago Taiwan was actually a more appealing economic partner than China. That’s ancient history, Taiwan just can’t compete with China’s huge market.”
Tsai, viewed by Beijing as a ‘separatist’, has previously accused China of ‘dollar diplomacy‘ over the issue of diplomatic recognition, which has also seen Taipei, formally known as the Republic of China, excluded from international bodies such as the World Health Assembly and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
The ROC government was established in Taipei at the end of China’s civil war in 1949 when the Communists established the People’s Republic of China in Beijing.
Beijing claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, with no right to state-to-state ties, and has not ruled out the use of force to achieve its goals.