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Taiwan President to visit Belize

Photo: H.E. Tsai Ing-Wen, President Republic of China (Taiwan)

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Mar. 30, 2023

On Tuesday, March 21, the Government of Belize issued a press release, informing the nation of the upcoming visit of the President of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Her Excellency (H.E.) Tsai Ing-Wen, to Belize.

The release explains that the Taiwanese President is expected to “meet with Prime Minister (PM) Hon. John Briceño, the Cabinet and other members of Parliament, as well as deliver an address at a Joint Sitting of Parliament.”

In addition, President Tsai Ing-Wen is scheduled to attend two banquets, one hosted by the Governor General of Belize, Dame Froyla Tzalam, the other hosted by PM Briceño, as well as meet with Taiwanese representatives residing in Belize.

She will be joined by her delegation which includes Secretary-General to the President, Lin Chia-lung; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joseph Wu; Minister of the Overseas Community Affairs Council, Hsu Chia-ching; Deputy Secretary-General to President, Xavier Chang; Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs, Chen Chern-chi; and Presidential Office Medical Convener, Chen Tsen-wen.

The visit comes at a difficult time for Taiwan because, earlier this month, Honduras’ president, Hon. Xiomara Castro dismantled relations with Taiwan after 82 years, ordered the removal of their foreign minister from the country, and announced her country’s recognition of Beijing as the only government of China.

For reference, Taiwan declares herself to be an independent country, self-governing since after the civil war in 1949. China claims the island of Taiwan as its territory. Relations have not been good between Beijing and Taipei, and Beijing has used its considerable wealth and power to come between Taiwan and her allies around the world. With Honduras cutting away to ally with Mainland China, Taiwan is down to 13 allies, two in Central America, our country and Guatemala.

There are suggestions in some quarters that the timing of the visit is a response to Honduras’s decision to support China; however, Minister Wu explains that they had no clue that the announcement would coincide with their trip and feels that this was an intentional move on China’s part.

According to the Taiwanese Presidential Office Spokesperson, Olivia Lin, Her Excellency’s second trip to Latin America since 2019 aims “to achieve two major goals: to strengthen democracy and foster mutual prosperity and development.”

The Taiwanese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Tah-ray Yui, explained that the visit aims to highlight “the depth of Taiwan’s friendship with Guatemala and Belize and the fruitful results of our bilateral cooperation, as well as to show the prospects for further co-prosperity, and to set the stage for increased high-level interactions and friendship between our nations.”

The 10-day trip commenced on March 29 and during the trip President Tsai Ing-Wen is scheduled to also visit Guatemala and meet with President Alejandro Giammattei, and as well visit the United States where she is expected to meet with U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy.

The U.S. has claimed to uphold the “One-China Policy”, and this scheduled meeting in Washington has attracted the attention of Beijing, which has threatened to retaliate if the said meeting was held. Although the U.S. does not hold diplomatic ties with Taiwan, they do maintain a robust unofficial relationship and support the island in its resistance against Beijing.

President Biden’s administration has reportedly assured China that President Tsai’s visit is strictly routine, similar to her six other visits between 2016 and 2019.

Belize’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Eamon Courtenay told a local media house that this visit will be used to show how much Taiwan values its friendship with Belize, and be a symbol of solidarity of the two countries for the world to see.