‘China exploiting Latin American appetite for infrastructure’

Beijing, Mar 27 (EFE).- China is exploiting the infrastructural needs of the Latin American countries to poach on Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, an expert has said, after Honduras severed bilateral ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing.

Charles Wu, who teaches diplomacy at the National Chengchi University, infrastructural needs were forcing Latin American countries like Nicaragua and Honduras to defect to China.

The diplomacy teacher was quoted by the official Central News Agency (CNA) as saying that China’s infrastructure assistance programs were alluring to nations that need support but cannot pay back their debts in the short run.

It enabled “Beijing to steal diplomatic allies away from Taiwan,” Wu said.

However, he warned that while China’s aide may seem more attractive on the surface than that offered by other partners, China’s strategic considerations might actually harm the country in the long run.

“Once the debt no longer benefits China, the infrastructure being handled by Beijing in nations it is assisting may come to a stop, leaving them to shoulder the burden on their own,” he said.

Su Tzu-yun, a research fellow at the Taiwan government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said the Honduran decision would affect the United States, which is losing its influence in the region.

He told CNA that newly established ties between Honduras and China could further the trend of the US slowly losing its influence in its own “backyard.”

Su said the US would be forced to speed up its plans to invest in the region to retain its influence in Latin America.

Chen Shih-min, who teaches political science at National Taiwan University, said the timing of China and Honduras announcing the diplomatic ties was noteworthy since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was visiting Central America this week.

Chen said the move was an act of intimidation to hurt Taiwan’s morale.

Honduras officially cut ties with Taiwan, ending a relationship it held with Taipei since 1941, in favor of establishing diplomatic ties with China.

The announcement comes 11 days after Honduras President Xiomara Castro ordered her foreign minister to establish diplomatic relations with China to comply with her government plan.

Honduras has become the ninth country in the world, and the fifth in Latin America, to establish a diplomatic relationship with China and cut ties with Taiwan since Tsai came to power in 2016.

The severing of ties with Taiwan by Honduras would reduce to 13 the number of countries with which Taipei maintains official diplomatic relations.

Four Latin American countries, Panama, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua, broke off relations with Taiwan in recent years for China.

The countries with which Taiwan maintains diplomatic relations are Guatemala, Ciudad del Vaticano, Haiti, Paraguay, Esuatini, Tuvalu, Nauru, San Vicente and Granadinas, San Kitts and Nevis, Santa Lucia, Belice, Marshall Islands, Palau.

China considers the self-ruled island part of its territory.

Beijing says it reserves the right to use force to reunify Taiwan, even as a peaceful merger would be its first choice.

The island was the refuge of the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) forces after losing the civil war with the Communists, who, since then, have claimed sovereignty over the territory.

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