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Honduran president-elect Xiomara Castro has floated the idea of switching diplomatic ties from Taipei to Beijing. Photo: Reuters

Taiwanese vice-president heads for Honduras to shore up shaky alliance

  • William Lai is attending swearing-in ceremony of presidential-elect Xiomara Castro, who has hinted she may switch to Beijing
  • There is a possibility he will meet US Vice-President Kamala Harris who is also attending
Taiwanese Vice-President William Lai left for Honduras on Tuesday to attend the swearing-in of its new leader and shore up the shaky relationship between Taipei and one of its few remaining diplomatic allies.
Honduras is one of only 14 countries to maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taipei and president-elect Xiomara Castro has floated the idea of ditching the relationship for Beijing, which says Taiwan is Chinese territory with no right to state-to-state ties.
Taiwanese Vice-President William Lai at Taoyuan international airport on Tuesday, before his departure for Honduras. Photo: Reuters

There is a chance Lai will meet US Vice-President Kamala Harris, who is also attending the swearing-in ceremony.

While Washington has no official diplomatic relations with Taipei, it is Taiwan’s most important international backer and arms supplier, a frequent source of tensions between Washington and Beijing.

The US has also been worried about growing Chinese influence in its backyard. In the run-up to the November election, a US delegation visiting Honduras made clear it wanted the country to maintain its Taiwan ties.


Lai, who is scheduled to meet Castro on Wednesday, said he would have “interactions and exchanges” with “leaders and deputy leaders” of allies and “friendly countries”, though he did not directly mention Harris.

Speaking at Taiwan’s main international airport in Taoyuan, Lai said his trip would show the world that Taipei was “a trustworthy friend and that Taiwan has the ability to help the international community”.

Taiwan cuts tariffs to keep Honduras on its diplomatic side

Lai said he was taking supplies to help Honduras combat the pandemic, to demonstrate Taipei’s determination to support Castro’s government from the get-go.

“As President Castro prepares to promote new policies, Taiwan will uphold the spirit of pragmatic diplomacy and mutual assistance, deepen cooperation with Honduras, and overcome various difficulties to benefit both countries’ peoples.”

In common with other Taiwanese leaders visiting Latin American allies, Lai is stopping off in the US on his way to and from Honduras, to which Beijing has expressed its usual opposition.

China has been stepping up efforts to win over the island’s remaining diplomatic allies, last month re-establishing ties with Nicaragua. Beijing has openly said it is aiming to reduce the number to zero.