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Taiwan to strengthen ties with Honduras, Lai to attend inauguration

FILE PHOTO: Tainan city mayor William Lai speaks at an news conference in Taipei, Taiwan September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Yeh.G.E

Taiwan’s presidential office announced on Wednesday that Vice President William Lai will attend the inauguration of new Honduran President Xiomara Castro, in an effort to strengthen ties as China intensifies diplomatic pressure on the island.

FILE PHOTO: Honduras’ president-elect Xiomara Castro speaks during a ceremony to receive her presidential credentials at the Plaza Juan Carlos hotel, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras December 30, 2021. REUTERS/Fredy Rodriguez

The news: Although Castro has floated the prospect of abandoning Taipei in favour of Beijing, the Taiwanese administration has stated that it will work with Castro to expand relations based on their long-standing friendship.

  • Castro is the country’s first female president, and it is one of just 14 countries with established diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
  • Taiwan’s government fiercely opposes China’s notion of democratically governed Taiwan as one of its provinces with no right to the trappings of a state.

What they’re saying: According to Xavier Chang, a spokesman for President Tsai Ing-wen’s office, President Tsai Ing-wen hoped the mission would assist strengthen relations with Honduras and demonstrate Taiwan’s commitment to participate on the global stage.

  • “Democratic Taiwan must also show the world community that it is a capable and responsible partner,” he added.
  • Chang noted that Taiwan’s high-profile de facto ambassador in Washington, Hsiao Bi-khim, will be part of the delegation for the inauguration on Jan. 27.

Senior Taiwanese leaders’ visits to allies in Latin America and the Caribbean are frequently punctuated by layovers in the United States, where they frequently meet with US officials, much to China’s chagrin.

  • Vice Foreign Minister Alexander Yui said that one-day transit stops would be made in the United States, but declined to disclose further specifics, citing ongoing consultations.
  • When asked if Lai would meet US Vice President Kamala Harris, who would also be attending the inauguration, Yui said there would “certainly be an occasion” to communicate with other official delegations.

What’s going on: The US has pushed Honduras to maintain ties with Taiwan, since it is concerned about expanding Chinese influence in the region.

  • China has been increasing pressure on Taiwan’s last diplomatic allies, re-establishing ties with Nicaragua last month, and has stated openly that it wants to reduce the number to zero.
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