A senior US envoy is traveling to Honduras as it considers relations with China

TEGUCIGALPA, March 16 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s top envoy will travel to Panama and Honduras this month, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday, days after Taiwan’s ally Honduras said it was establishing formal diplomatic ties with China.

Chris Dodd, the US President’s special adviser on the Americas, will visit two Central American countries from the 17th to the 21st. March, the ministry said in a statement.

In recent years, the United States has focused on migration and security challenges emanating from Central America, as well as trade and development priorities, but it has also been concerned about China’s efforts to expand its influence in the region.

Dodd, a former lawmaker, will meet with Honduran officials and private sector officials, government officials and financial leaders in Panama and attend the Inter-American Development Bank’s annual conference.

“These visits advance the United States’ commitment to promoting inclusive economic growth, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in the Western Hemisphere,” the State Department said.

On Tuesday, Honduran President Xiomara Castro announced that he would seek diplomatic relations with Beijing, which would come at the expense of Taiwan, which China claims is its own territory with no right to interstate relations.

Castro’s foreign minister, Enrique Reina, said Wednesday that the pivot to China was partly because Honduras was “up to its neck” in economic challenges and debt — including a $600 million debt owed to Taiwan.

Speaking to reporters in Taipei, Taiwanese Prime Minister Chen Chien-jen repeated a warning to Honduras not to trust China and its offers of money.

“China has suppressed Taiwan’s diplomacy, so it invests funds related to certain countries to hinder Taiwan’s diplomatic development,” he said.

China’s investments as part of its Belt and Road energy and infrastructure network in these countries had mostly failed and led to financial difficulties, Chen said.

“Therefore, we very much hope that Honduras can recognize China’s true nature and hope that it will maintain diplomatic relations and not be deceived.”

China denied on Thursday that Taiwan’s former allies such as Panama and El Salvador had not benefited from forging ties with Beijing, saying they had received “concrete benefits”.

If Honduras were to cut ties with Taiwan, the island would have only 13 diplomatic allies.

Although the United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it is Taiwan’s main international supporter and arms supplier.

According to China, Taiwan is one of its provinces that has no right to interstate relations. Taipei’s democratically elected government strongly rejects the view.

Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Additional reporting: Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Screenplay: Sarah Morland; Editing by Leslie Adler, Robert Birsel

Our standard: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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