TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – The government of incoming Honduran president Xiomara Castro does not plan to establish diplomatic ties with China as it prioritizes U.S. relations, a high-ranking ally of Castro said on Thursday, signaling a reversal of her pre-election stance.
Before Sunday’s presidential election, which Castro appears to have won by a large margin and her main rival conceded, she said she was open to starting formal relations with China. That would have been a blow to Honduras’ longstanding diplomatic ally Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province.
Honduras, with a population of just under 10 million, is one of a shrinking club concentrated in Central America and the Caribbean that maintains relations with U.S.-backed Taiwan.
Castro’s pledge on China relations had prompted diplomatic jostling between Beijing and Washington as each seeks to exert influence on the Central American nation.
Salvador Nasralla, the runner-up of the Honduran 2017 presidential election who is set to be one of Castro’s three vice presidents, told Reuters that any relations with China had to be weighed against ties with the United States.
When asked if Honduras would establish relations with China, Nasralla said: “No.”
“There are no relations with China, relations continue with Taiwan,” he added. “Our trade ally, our close ally, our historical ally is the United States. We don’t want to fight with the United States, the United States is our main trade ally.”
Another senior politician in Castro’s incoming government, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also said there would be no ramping up of China relations as the “conditions” for that do not exist.
China’s Foreign Ministry last week accused the United States of “arm-twisting” in Honduras ahead of the election.
The coordinator of Castro’s government plan, economist Hugo Pino, earlier said the decision to establish diplomatic ties with China was not final and that it was still in consultation with business, trade unions, peasant and social organizations.
(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Dave Graham and Grant McCool)