Belize reaffirms support for Taiwan as doubts grow over Honduras

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TAIPEI, Dec 1 (Reuters) - A senior politician from Belize pledged on Wednesday "steadfast" support for Taiwan during a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen, amid doubts whether fellow Central American nation Honduras will maintain ties with the island following a presidential election.

Belize and Honduras are two of just 15 countries with formal diplomatic relations with Chinese-claimed Taiwan, and Beijing has been gradually whittling away that number.

Honduras' conservative ruling party candidate late on Tuesday conceded defeat in the presidential election, paving the way for his leftist rival Xiomara Castro to assume office. Castro has floated the idea of switching ties to China.

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Meeting Tsai at her office in Taipei, Belize's House of Representatives Speaker Valerie Woods said her country and Taiwan shared the same values of freedom, peace, human rights, rule of law and democracy.

"We also know the challenges that come with defending sovereignty and the right to independence as we too have fought a large neighbour," Woods said, in likely reference to Guatemala's territorial claims on Belize.

"Belize remains steadfast in its support of Taiwan and we stand in solidarity with you," added Woods, who is visiting for a parliamentary forum.

Belize and Taiwan established ties in 1989.

Tsai told Woods she hoped relations would continue to deepen.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said later on Wednesday the government had congratulated Castro for her win, and that it would work with her new administration. read more

Taiwan has previously warned Honduras not to be taken in by China's "flashy and false" promises.

China's efforts to win over Taiwan's friends have alarmed and angered Washington, which is concerned about Beijing's growing international influence.

Pacific island nations Kiribati and the Solomon Islands were the last countries to cut ties with Taipei in September 2019.

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Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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