Honduran president to visit Taiwan in surprise trip

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The outgoing Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was on his way to Taiwan at the invitation of the island’s leader just weeks before a presidential election in the Central American nation that could see self-ruled Taiwan even more diplomatically isolated.

Hernández was in Washington on a visit when he announced his trip to Taiwan in a statement Thursday. His country, one of Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic allies, is due to hold the election at the end of the month.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is concerned that Honduras may switch its diplomatic relations to China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory to be annexed by force if necessary.

Taiwan is closely watching the situation in Honduras after the news that one of the candidates in the race said they would establish ties with China, Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said in September, according to the semi-official Central News Agency.

China has been on a campaign to isolate Taiwan in recent years, using diplomatic and economic methods to persuade allied countries to switch recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

China says Taiwan is not a country and is merely another province. Taiwan says it has essentially been functioning independently as a country since the two sides split after a civil war in 1949.

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Associated Press video journalist Johnson Lai contributed to this report.

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