U.S. warns China's promises often empty as Honduras wavers on Taiwan
TAIPEI (Reuters) -China often makes promises in exchange for recognition that remain unfulfilled, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei said on Saturday as Honduras moves ahead with ending its long-standing ties with Taiwan in favour of China.
The Honduran foreign minister travelled to China this week to open relations after President Xiomara Castro said her government would move to forge ties with Beijing, Honduras being one of only 14 countries to formally recognise Taiwan.
At stake is China's growing footprint in Central America, once a steadfast base for Taiwan and where the United States is worried about Beijing's expanding influence in its backyard.
China views Taiwan as one of its provinces with no right to state-to-state ties, a view the democratically-elected government in Taipei strongly disputes.
The American Institute in Taiwan said that while Honduras' possible severing of ties with Taipei in favour of Beijing was a sovereign decision, China does not always follow through on its promises.
"It is important to note the PRC often makes promises in exchange for diplomatic recognition that ultimately remain unfulfilled," a spokesperson said, referring to the People's Republic of China.
"Regardless of Honduras' decision, the United States will continue to deepen and expand our engagement with Taiwan in line with our longstanding one China policy," the spokesperson added.
Taiwan is a reliable, likeminded, and democratic partner, and its partnerships globally provide "significant and sustainable benefits to the citizens of those countries".
"We strongly encourage all countries to expand engagement with Taiwan and to continue to stand on the side of democracy, good governance, transparency, and adherence to the rule of law."
China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but it has previously said its relations with Taiwan's former diplomatic allies have brought them real benefits.
Members of the Honduran community in Taipei gathered at National Taiwan University on Saturday to express their thanks in what they said was a non-political event.
"We are so thankful for the opportunities Taiwan has given us," said Billy Parebes, 27, who first came as a student.
"Taiwan has provided us education, they have provided so many projects that have developed our country, like renewable energy, agriculture."
The Honduras drama is happening ahead of a high-profile visit by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen to the United States and Central America next week. Tsai is expected to meet U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles at the end of the trip.
The United States also has no official ties with Taiwan but is the island's most important international backer and arms supplier.
Neither China nor Honduras has announced they have established diplomatic relations.
Diplomatic sources in Taipei say this is a departure from previous practice whereby an announcement on severing ties with Taiwan in favour of China normally happens very fast, with Taipei getting only maybe a few hours notice beforehand.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Laurie Chen in Beijing; editing by Robert Birsel and Michael Perry)