Taiwan says outgoing Honduran president to visit island

Outgoing Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez's visit was first announced by the Central American country's presidential palace. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Outgoing Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez will visit Taiwan, the island's foreign ministry said on Thursday (Nov 11), as Taipei seeks to maintain relations with Honduras amid an escalating diplomatic tug-of-war between China and Taiwan.

Honduras is one of just 15 countries that maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which China claims as its territory with no right to state-to-state relations.

Taiwan's foreign ministry said in a statement that it welcomed Hernandez's visit, which was first announced by the Central American country's presidential palace.

It is not immediately clear when the visit will take place.

Honduras is set to hold a presidential election on Nov 28 and its main opposition party has said it will establish diplomatic relations with China if it wins.

Taiwan accused China in September of seeking to use the Honduran election to "create controversy" and undermine Taiwan's long-standing ties with the country.

Taiwan's foreign ministry, which had previously warned Honduras not to be drawn in by China's "flashy and false" promises, said Hernandez's visit would help deepen ties between the two sides as they celebrate their 80-year friendship this year.

China and Taiwan have for years traded accusations of "dollar diplomacy" as they seek support around the world, offering aid packages in return for diplomatic recognition.

China's efforts to win over Taiwan's remaining allies have alarmed Washington, which has been especially concerned about Beijing's growing influence in Central America and the Caribbean.

El Salvador, in 2018, is the most recent country in the region to ditch Taipei in favour of Beijing.

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