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Taiwan’s ally has warned China to pivot Covid for vaccines

One of the few remaining allies in Taiwan has warned that diplomatic loyalty could be forced to shift from Taipei to Beijing in order to obtain vaccines against Chinese coronavirus.

Carlos Alberto Madero, the chief cabinet coordinator similar to a Honduran prime minister, told the Financial Times in an interview that the country wants to avoid breaking its long-standing ties with Taipei. But he warned that access to vaccines is “much more urgent than anything else.”

The Central American nation has been unable to buy adequate Covid-19 jab stock and has had delays in the delivery of signed contracts. It has inoculated less than 1 percent from its 9m population.

“That puts us in a very difficult situation,” Madero said. “[The] The people of Honduras are starting to see China helping their allies and we are starting to wonder why they are not helping us. “

“It can certainly lead to changes in foreign policy.”

Madero said Honduras has approached the U.S. to get vaccinated and promised help but has not yet received it.

The U.S. State Department said Washington was “very concerned” about Honduras’ challenges and said President Joe Biden had announced them. 80m vaccine doses would be given worldwide at the end of June. A spokesman did not say whether Honduras would get it.

Only 15 countries have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which China claims as part of its territory. Any move by Honduras to leave Taiwan would raise alarm in Washington.

Over the past five years, China has used its economic power over a third of Taiwan’s allies, including Panama in 2017 and El Salvador and the Dominican Republic in 2018, to change diplomatic recognition.

The U.S. recently stepped up its diplomatic engagement with Paraguay when Asuncion offered to supply China with Covid-19 vaccines in exchange for a change of recognition for Beijing. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blink has called on the Paraguayan president, a U.S. official said, to aim to provide public support to Taiwan’s allies.

The US, which has traditionally had a major impact on the region, decided to change the rest of Taiwan’s Latin American allies. After El Salvador cut ties with Taipei in 2018, Washington said it would do so re-evaluate their relationship With San Salvador.

Members of the security and diplomatic groups between the US, Japan, India and Australia joined forces in March create a plan giving developing countries ownership of China’s vaccine diplomacy. Some lawmakers want the Biden group to pay more attention to its southern neighbors.

Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez and Republican Senator Marco Rubio have called on the president to vaccinate Latin America and the Caribbean, arguing the need for China to address similar behaviors.

“Without the commitment and leadership of the U.S., our competitors will strive to use their most effective vaccines to protect the diplomatic agenda that is detrimental to us in Latin American and Caribbean nations,” the senators said in a letter last week.

China has sent more than half a dose of 144 million vaccines to the 10 most populous countries in Latin America. According to an FT analysis.

El Salvador’s access to Chinese vaccines has helped it vaccinate nearly 16% of the population.

Honduras has tried to buy vaccines from China, but has been unable to secure a contract.

“We believe that geopolitics has something to do with vaccines,” Madero said. “Of course, you’re starting to see countries with more ties to China have more access to vaccines.”

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has raised the possibility of opening a trade office in China to try to improve relations.

Taipei is striving to get vaccines for its people the first great appearance Covid-19.

The Taiwanese foreign ministry has accused China of “using vaccines to exchange political and diplomatic benefits with countries in urgent need,” which it said is an “shameful act”.

Additional report by Washington’s Katrina Manson


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