2023-0316: Honduras’ Potential Diplomatic Split With Taiwan; Taiwan Lend-Lease Act Introduced

Taiwan Voices “Grave Concern” Over Potential Diplomatic Split With Honduras

On March 15, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said that it had expressed “grave concern” to the government of Honduras after Honduran President Xiomara Castro tweeted that she had instructed her country’s foreign minister to establish diplomatic relations with China.

In a Tweet on March 14, President Castro expressed her desire to seek official ties with China — an idea she had raised during her presidential run, but appeared to back off from after taking power in January last year in 2022.

“I have instructed Chancellor Eduardo Reina to manage the opening of official relations with the People’s Republic of China as a sign of my determination to comply with the government plan and expand the borders freely in concert with the nations of the world,” Castro tweeted in Spanish.

Castro did not specify whether her country would end diplomatic relations with Taiwan before securing official ties with China.

Nonetheless, China requires that Taiwan’s diplomatic allies sever official ties with Taiwan before establishing diplomatic relations with it.

On March 15, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said that Taiwan was not considering ending diplomatic relations with Honduras before the Central American country formally announced a diplomatic switch.

However, MOFA has expressed Taiwan’s “grave concern” to the Honduran government over Castro’s tweet, urging the country to carefully consider its decision and “not fall into China’s trap” and jeopardize decades-long friendship between the two countries.

MOFA warned that Beijing always offered “false promises” to Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, with the sole purpose of snatching them away to diminish Taiwan’s international presence.

Unlike China, Taiwan is a genuine friend and partner that has offered assistance to Honduras and pushed forward projects that improved the well-being of Hondurans for decades, MOFA stressed.

Honduras is an important ally of Taiwan, it said, adding that Taiwan’s government would continue working with like-minded countries to strengthen cooperation and deepen friendships with its allies.

If Honduras were to end official relations with Taiwan, the country would be left with 13 diplomatic allies worldwide.

Honduras would also become the ninth diplomatic ally, and fifth in Latin America, Taiwan has lost to China since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in May 2016.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202303150006
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2023/03/16/2003796178

Taiwan Lend-Lease Act Introduced to Bolster Taiwan Defense

On March 9, U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the “Taiwan Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2023” (S.770) aimed at supporting U.S.-Taiwan partnership by authorizing a defense lend or lease program with the Government of Taiwan to deter Communist China’s preemptive aggression.

“Taiwan is our greatest partner in the Indo-Pacific region, and their continued sovereignty is essential to challenging the New Axis of Evil,” Sen. Blackburn said in a press release, adding that the bill seeks to “ensure Taiwan has the capacity to defend itself and strengthen the United States’ commitment to preserving freedom around the globe.”

Earlier on March 1, Representatives Michelle Steel (R-CA) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) introduced companion legislation (H.R.1330) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“There is no doubt that the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] is the greatest threat to global stability and America’s national security,” Rep. Steel said in a statement. “The Taiwan Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act will send an unmistakable message to the CCP that the United States stands with our allies and is prepared to arm Taiwan with the tools it needs to defend itself.”

Under the bill, the U.S. President may lend or lease defense articles to Taiwan’s government with interest, as part of efforts to protect Taiwan from potential aggression carried out by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China.

The means of aggression by the PLA include a full or partial naval blockade of Taiwan, an amphibious assault and ground invasion, a missile strike, or a seizure of one or more of outlying islands controlled by Taiwan, among others, the bill states.

It stipulates that after the date of the enactment of this bill, the President has up to 60 days to establish expedited procedures for the delivery of any defense article loaned or leased to the Government of Taiwan.

No later than 90 days after the bill is enacted, the Secretary of Defense should submit to Congress a report on the potential defense articles it deems “appropriate” to loan or lease to Taiwan, the bill states.

In 1941, the Lend-Lease Act authorized the U.S. government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt to lend or lease, rather than sell, war supplies to any nation deemed vital to the defense of the United States. These supplies included warships and warplanes, weapons, provisions, and raw materials.

In 2022, President Joe Biden signed into law the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act (S.3522). Much like Roosevelt’s 1941 program, this act allowed the U.S. government to lend or lease a wide range of defense articles to Ukraine’s government and the governments of other Eastern European countries affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202303110008
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2023/03/12/2003795959