Taiwan’s president lobbies Central American leaders in Honduras


TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP)

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian arrived in Honduras to ask for the backing of Central American leaders in his country’s bid to join the United Nations.

President Manuel Zelaya welcomed Chen on Tuesday and pledged his country’s full support.

“The people of Honduras recognizes Taiwan’s struggle for its identity, independence and for the recognition of international organizations,” Zelaya said.

Chen is scheduled to attend a two-day summit beginning Thursday in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, with several Central American leaders before traveling on to El Salvador and Nicaragua.

The three countries Chen is visiting are among Taiwan’s 24 remaining diplomatic allies, most of whom are small, impoverished nations in Latin America and Africa.

It was Chen’s first foreign trip since Costa Rica switched diplomatic recognition to rival China in June, triggering fears of a domino effect among Taiwan’s remaining political allies in the region.

With its rising economic and political clout, China has mounted an offensive to lure away the island’s allies.

Taiwan and communist China split amid civil war in 1949. China claims Taiwan as part of its own territory and has objected to foreign governments giving the island any trappings of statehood.