Visit to Taiwan by outgoing Honduran president a sign of Tsai’s diplomatic desperation: experts
Published: Nov 12, 2021 11:52 PM
Tsai Ing-wen Photo:VCG

Tsai Ing-wen Photo:VCG

At the invitation of Taiwan's regional leader Tsai Ing-wen, the outgoing Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez landed the island on Friday and start a three-day visit, weeks before the presidential election in the Central American country. The leading candidate Xiomara Castro has pledged to "cut ties" with the island and turn to Chinese mainland.  

Amid the growing tension across the Taiwan Straits, experts said the visit shows the sense of crisis in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and that Tsai is desperately seeking to save relationships via "dollar diplomacy." 

2021 marks the 80th anniversary of the establishment of "diplomatic relations" between the island and Honduras. Taiwan's external affairs authority said Hernandez's visit is of great significance for deepening "friendship and cooperation."

Honduras, one of the last 15 countries and regions to keep "diplomatic ties" with the island of Taiwan under the US pressure, actually has increasingly shaky relations with DPP authority. In May 2021, Honduras was reported to have asked its neighboring country El Salvador for help in getting Chinese mainland vaccines, as it was hit by shortages amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hernandez's trip is his third as Honduran President, but experts said he will need to seek assurances.  

Zhou Zhiwei, an expert on Latin American studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that Honduras's domestic epidemic situation is worrying and its economy is struggling. So the visit to Taiwan may be intended to seek assistance in this respect.

"After establishing diplomatic ties with the Chinese mainland, Central American countries have significantly improved their economy, trade and investment, and their vaccine supply is much better than that of Honduras. The people of Honduras have seen this," said Zhou.

Wang Jianmin, a senior cross-Straits expert at Minnan Normal University, East China's Fujian Province, told the Global Times on Friday that the visit shows Tsai's anxiety and restlessness.

Tsai did not want to sever ties with an "ally" for the eighth time during her tenure, so she sought to cement ties at a time of uncertainty in Honduras' internal affairs, Wang said. 

Experts said that while there may be some behind-the-scenes coordination by the US, it is likely that Honduras is seeking to put pressure on the island via cross-Straits questions. 

 "Honduras may seek Taiwan's support and commitment in major public projects, election financing, and economic development," said Wang. "But it remains to be seen whether Taiwan can fully meet Honduras's demands."  

Media reports said that Hernandez is expected to visit the Central American Bank for Economic Integration in Taipei, a Honduran development bank.

Tsai made a bet on Donald Trump during the 2020 US presidential election, but Trump lost, and experts say Tsai could face a similar outcome in Honduras.

After spending a lot of money, the Taiwan authorities probably won't be able to keep hold of their ally, which would be a reason for the island's opposition camp to attack Tsai, Wang said. 

The one-China principle is a universally recognized norm and consensus of the international community, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Monday. The Taiwan authorities must know that secession is a dead end, dollar diplomacy will not work out, and any attempt to go against the tide of history is doomed to failure, Wang said.