Taiwan told to 'pack up and leave' Honduras after ties severed

By Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) -Taiwan must vacate its embassy in Honduras within 30 days, a senior Honduran official said on Monday, after President Xiomara Castro severed ties with Taiwan in favor of China in a bid for more investment and jobs from the Asian giant.

Deputy Foreign Minister Antonio Garcia issued the order on local television on Monday, following the government's announcement over the weekend that it had opened formal diplomatic relations with Beijing while simultaneously ending its decades-long relationship with Taiwan.

Castro's main conservative opposition later announced it would reverse the opening to China if it regains power.

China has long argued that democratically ruled Taiwan is part of its own territory with no right to state-to-state ties, a position Taipei strongly rejects. Communist-run China demands that countries it has ties with must adopt its position.

Taipei's embassy in Tegucigalpa's leafy Palmira neighborhood was for years one of the Central American capital's most prominent foreign outposts, as well as the country's second-biggest embassy after the U.S. embassy.

In his remarks, Garcia said 30 days "is more than enough time to pack up and leave," adding that officials aim for an "orderly, friendly" exit.

Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesman Jeff Liu said 30 days was an "international norm", and that they would comment further later.

The move by Honduras came just before former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou began a historic visit to China, the first by a former or current Taiwanese president since the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 at the end of a civil war with the Communists.

The visit has been sharply criticized by Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

The Honduras deputy minister also stressed the need for a diplomatic mission to China.

"We have to go there to explore the big projects that China can give us," he said, suggesting that China could invest some $10 billion in Honduras in a boon for local workers.

The foreign ministry also announced that Honduran students with scholarships in Taiwan would be able to transfer their studies to China.

Liu said Honduran students' scholarships would last until the end of the current term, and then they would be provided one-way tickets home.

The move leaves Taiwan with only 13 formal allies, mostly poor and developing countries in Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

In its own statement on Monday, the conservative National Party pledged to re-establish ties with Taiwan if it can retake the Honduran presidency in 2026.

"We will do the impossible to restore relations with our brothers and sisters in the Republic of Taiwan," it said, promising to enshrine allegiance to Taiwan in the country's constitution.

(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Additional reporting by Sarah Morland, and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Stephen Eisenhammer, Josie Kao and Sandra Maler)