Thursday, December 8

New Honduras leader says she hopes to maintain Taiwan ties

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TAIPEI — Honduras is grateful for the support Taiwan has provided and hopes to maintain their relationship, President-elect Xiomara Castro said on Wednesday after meeting Taiwan Vice President William Lai, who is in the country to shore up shaky ties.

Honduras is one of only 14 countries with formal diplomatic relations with Chinese-claimed Taiwan. Castro floated the idea of ​​ditching Taipei for Beijing in her election campaign.

China has ramped up pressure to reduce Taiwan’s international footprint, saying the democratically governed island is Chinese territory with no right to state-to-state ties.

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In comments to Taiwanese media after meeting Lai, who is in Honduras for the presidential inauguration, Castro thanked Taiwan.

“The people of Honduras are always grateful to the people of Taiwan for their support that they have always given us,” she said, in a video clip carried by Taiwan’s official Central News Agency. “We have worked together hand in hand for many years and hope to maintain this relationship.”

Lai had been due to hold formal talks with Castro and deliver materials to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, but that was canceled, the Central News Agency said, adding they met later for about seven minutes.

Lai told Castro that Taiwan would increase its cooperation with Honduras and promote their friendship, the report added.

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Lai, tweeting a picture of him meeting Castro, wrote in English: “Honoured to attend the transfer of power ceremony tomorrow, and help strengthen the friendship between our democratic countries.”

US Vice President Kamala Harris is also going to Castro’s inauguration, potentially giving Lai a chance to meet her, though US officials have suggested to Reuters that there will not be a formal meeting.

In the run-up to the November election, a visiting US delegation to Honduras made clear it wanted the Central American country to maintain its Taiwan relations.

The United States has worried about growing Chinese influence in its back yard.

China has been stepping up efforts to win over Taiwan’s remaining diplomatic allies, last month re-establishing relations with Nicaragua, a neighbor of Honduras, and has openly said it is aiming to reduce the number to zero. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Gerry Doyle)