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Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen attends a joint news conference with her Honduran counterpart Juan Orlando Hernandez (not pictured) after a private meeting at the Presidential House in Tegucigalpa, Honduras January 9, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera(reuters_tickers)
By Gustavo Palencia
TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen praised Honduras for its loyalty on Monday at the start of a trip to four Central American nations aimed at strengthening ties, days after she met U.S. lawmakers in Texas on a visit that angered China.
Her trip has come under scrutiny since U.S. President-elect Donald Trump sparked protests from Beijing by accepting a congratulatory telephone call from Tsai on his U.S. election win, and by questioning U.S. commitment to China's stance that Taiwan is part of one China.
Tsai emphasized Taiwan's economic cooperation with Honduras, one of the world's poorest countries, and said President Juan Orlando Hernandez, whom she met in Tegucigalpa, had been the first to congratulate her on her 2016 election victory.
"Despite the international situation, and the constant challenges that affect us as a country ... the firm brotherhood and solidarity (of Honduras and Taiwan) is unalterable," Tsai said in a statement to reporters, speaking via an interpreter.
Tsai said Taiwan and Honduras could serve as entry portals for the markets of Asia and Latina America. She did not mention China or the United States, and did not take questions.
Tsai later flew to Nicaragua, and is also due to visit El Salvador and Guatemala this week. Her stopover in Texas at the weekend caused an angry response from Chinese state media.
China had asked the United States not to allow Tsai to enter or have formal government meetings under the one-China policy.
Beijing considers self-governing Taiwan a renegade province ineligible for state-to-state relations.
Since the mid-1990s, almost a third of Taiwan's allies have broken ties. It now has formal relations with just 21, mostly smaller and poorer nations in Latin America and the Pacific.
(Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Sandra Maler)