TEGUCIGALPA: Economic necessity and Taiwan's refusal to increase financial aid were behind Honduras' decision to establish diplomatic ties with China, Honduran Foreign Minister Eduardo Reina said on Wednesday.
Honduran President Xiomara Castro announced on Tuesday that she had instructed Reina to "undertake the official opening of relations" with China, a move that would sever the Central American country's longstanding diplomatic relationship with Taiwan.
Speaking to the Canal 5 television channel, Reina said Honduras had proposed "more important relations given the great needs of the Honduran people," but that Taiwan had refused.
Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Central America, with almost 74 percent of its nearly 10 million population living in poverty.
Reina said Honduras had asked Taiwan to double its annual aid of $50 million and also explored "realigning" its $600-million debt to the island nation, but did not receive positive responses.
Honduras has needs in energy and in servicing its debt, which is "drowning the country," he added.
Last year, Honduras paid $2.2 billion and must pay another $2.3 billion this year for its external and internal debt, which amounts to $20 billion, according to the top diplomat.
Reina said "171 countries in the world have relations with continental China" and the economic reality was that Honduras "had to take that decision."
"The idea is to look for mechanisms for greater investment (and) commerce," he added.
Honduras and Taiwan had maintained diplomatic ties for more than 80 years.
Under Beijing's "One China" principle, no country may maintain official diplomatic relations with both China and Taiwan.
Honduras is one of only 14 countries that officially recognize Taiwan, a self-ruling democratic island that China considers part of its territory, to be retaken one day by force, if necessary.
The switch — which Castro pledged to make before she was elected in 2021 — comes weeks after her government announced it was negotiating with China to build a hydroelectric dam.
It continues a recent trend in the region with Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica all switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing.
Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Reina's latest comments "did not fully reflect the communication between the two sides," and that Taiwan "will never compete with China for cash diplomacy."
"We remind Honduras not to drink poison to quench your thirst and fall into China's debt trap, as the country is already plagued by debt problems," the ministry said.