Belize on Monday reaffirmed its diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the second country to do so in a week as Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen travels across Central America in an effort to shore up a dwindling number of allies.
“Together we can promote our shared values like democracy, the right of the people to self determination and respect for international law,” Johnny Briceño, Belize’s prime minister, said in a speech before the country’s National Assembly.
Belize follows in the footsteps of Guatemala, another ally of Taiwan, whose leader declared its relationship with the self-governed island “unchangeable” during a visit by Tsai. The Central American nations represent two of Taiwan’s 13 formal allies across the world, a number that has dipped as China has put pressure on and funneled money into isolating the island.
The trip came just a week after Honduras announced it would cut allegiances with Taiwan in favor of China, potentially prompted by a $300 million hydroelectric dam project in central Honduras built by a Chinese company.
Over the past two decades, China has slowly carved out a space for itself in Latin America by pouring money into the region, investing in major infrastructure, energy and space projects.
Between 2005 and 2020, the Chinese have invested more than $130 billion in Latin America, according to the United States Institute of Peace. Trade between China and the region has also shot up, expected to reach more than $700 billion by 2035.
That investment has translated to rising power for China and a growing number of allies at a time of geopolitical importance.
“The people of Taiwan face constant threats and pressure from the neighbor on the other side of the Taiwan Strait,” Tsai said of China, speaking in Belize’s capital of Belmopan.
Taipei, meanwhile, has struggled to keep up.
During her stay in Guatemala, Tsai visited a rural hospital built with a donation from Taiwan.
Meanwhile, before Belize’s National Assembly, the country’s leader Briceño listed off a number of development projects funded by Taiwan, including farming programs and funds to build key infrastructure like hospitals.