China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday accused the United States of "arm-twisting" after a U.S. delegation made clear Washington wants Honduras to maintain its long-standing diplomatic relations with Taiwan when it votes this weekend.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said Washington has warned Central American nations of "some of the risks associated with China's approach to the region".
Xiomara Castro, the main opposition leftist candidate who leads in the latest polling for this month's presidential election, has previously said that if victorious she would switch diplomatic relations to Beijing over Taiwan. But one of her close aides said on Tuesday no final decision had been made.
Asked about the United States telling the Honduran candidates to keep relations with Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the United States would not win any friends this way.
"This arm-twisting and bullying behaviour will not win any hearts and minds," he told reporters in Beijing.
People in Central America should watch out for the United States' "hegemonic behaviour", Zhao added, pointing to U.S. involvement over the years in coups and other plots.
"Two hundred years on, the United States is still dreaming the old dream and treating Latin American countries as within its sphere of influence. This bullying behaviour is abhorred by Latin Americans and will surely fail."
Honduras is one of 15 countries that maintains diplomatic relations with self-ruled Taiwan. China views Taiwan as its own territory, with no right to state-to-state ties, a view the government in Taipei strongly rejects.
Taiwan's Foreign Ministry expressed its thanks to the United States for its support for ties between Taiwan and its allies, and reiterated the government will respect the outcome of the Honduran election.
Taiwan has warned Honduras not to be taken in by China's "flashy and false" promises.
The two have a relationship dating back to 1941, before the Republic of China government fled to Taiwan after losing the Chinese civil war.
China's efforts have alarmed and angered Washington, which is concerned about Beijing's growing international influence.