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Guatemala to maintain Taiwan ties despite seeking greater China trade

By Sofia Menchu

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemala has no intention of breaking diplomatic relations with Taiwan despite seeking closer economic links with China, President Bernardo Arevalo said on Thursday, pledging to boost ties with both players in parallel.

Guatemala is one of only a handful of nations that still maintains formal ties with Taiwan. Next-door Honduras last year switched allegiances to China, which claims Taiwan as its own, after seeking almost $2.5 billion in aid from Beijing.

Arevalo assumed office in mid-January vowing to end corruption and establish relations with China, raising the possibility that those ties might come at the expense of historic diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Such an outcome looked closer this week when Foreign Minister Carlos Ramiro Martinez told Reuters Guatemala was considering reaching out to China to develop formal trade ties, prompting the opposition to seek clarification on Guatemala's foreign policy plans.

Publicly reaffirming the country's Taiwan ties for the first time since taking office, Arevalo said his administration will not change course.

"We are not choosing," Arevalo told Reuters in an interview in Guatemala City's National Palace. "Diplomatic relations are with Taiwan and with the People's Republic of China there are trade relations that will continue to develop."

Arevalo, an academic and former diplomat, has promised to tackle the root causes of migration, especially rampant poverty that has fueled a huge exodus of Guatemalans to the U.S. mostly through illegal routes. In 2022, about 233,000 Guatemalans arrived at U.S. borders.

To broaden legal migration options, Arevalo's administration is now seeking a "significant increase" in quotas for temporary worker visas that Guatemalans can obtain under an agreement with the United States, the president said.

"We want to make this a pretty significant initiative," he said, adding that the two countries are in talks about "mechanisms" that Guatemala can use to sate the demand for labor in cities and rural areas in the United States.

(Editing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Josie Kao)