AIPEI, March 17 (Reuters) – Taiwan will remain resilient and pragmatic and support its allies, not bowing before the “big bully in the neighbourhood”, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Friday as the island faces the loss of long-term ally Honduras to China.
On Tuesday, Honduran President Xiomara Castro announced the government would seek diplomatic ties with Beijing, which would come at the expense of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory.`
Castro’s foreign minister, Enrique Reina, said on Wednesday that the pivot to China was partly because Honduras was “up to its neck” in financial challenges and debt – including $600 million it owes Taiwan.
Speaking at a reception in front of an audience that included ambassadors from the clutch of countries which still maintain formal ties with Taiwan, though not the Honduran ambassador, Wu said Taiwan would remain “agile, pragmatic, resilient and lovable”.
“As a responsible member of the international community, we are always more than willing to share our expertise and experience with our allies and like-minded partners,” Wu said.
“Over the years we have worked together with our diplomatic allies to support their national development plans in elevating the welfare of their people,” he added.
“Despite the shadow of the big bully in the neighbourhood, Taiwan will not budge,” Wu said, in a clear reference to China. “It will continue to stand tall as a force for good in the world.”
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen also attended the event, sitting at a table with ambassadors from ally nations, among them Paraguay’s ambassador whose country holds elections next month which could see them also ending ties with Taiwan.
Tsai made brief remarks thanking countries for their support for Taiwan internationally. Like Wu, she did not directly mention Honduras.
If Honduras ditched Taiwan, it would leave the island with only 13 diplomatic allies, mostly small and developing nations in Latin America, the Caribbean and Pacific.
China says Taiwan is one of its provinces with no right to state-to-state ties, a view the democratically elected government in Taipei strongly rejects.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie