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Senior U.S. envoy to travel to Panama, Honduras in coming days

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A high-ranking envoy of President Joe Biden will travel to Panama and Honduras this month, the U.S. Department of State said on Thursday, days after Honduras said it would establish formal diplomatic ties with China.

Chris Dodd, the U.S. special presidential adviser for the Americas, will visit the two Central American nations from March 17-21, the State Department said in a statement.

In recent years, the United States has focused on migration and security challenges stemming from Central America, as well as trade and development priorities.

Dodd, a former lawmaker, will meet with Honduran officials and private-sector representatives, officials and finance leaders in Panama, as well as attend the Inter-American Development Bank annual conference.

“These visits advance the commitment of the United States to foster inclusive economic growth, democracy, human rights, and rule of law in the Western Hemisphere,” according to the statement.

On Tuesday, Honduran President Xiomara Castro announced it would seek diplomatic ties with Beijing, a move which would come at the expense of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory with no right to state-to-state ties.

Castro’s foreign minister, Enrique Reina, said on Wednesday that the pivot to China was partly because Honduras was “up to its neck” in financial challenges and debt – including $600 million it owes Taiwan.

If Honduras ends relations with Taiwan, it will leave the island with only 13 diplomatic allies.

While the United States has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it is Taiwan’s most important international backer and arms supplier.

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