GUATEMALA CITY: Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen arrived in Guatemala on Friday (Mar 31) on a visit to shore up ties with dwindling allies following a trip to the United States that angered China.
Tsai’s visit to Guatemala and its Central American neighbour Belize comes after Honduras became the latest country to cut diplomatic ties with Taipei in favour of Beijing.
The president had stopped in New York on the way and has announced plans to meet US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California on her return leg.
Washington has said there is no reason for China to “overreact” to the “normal, uneventful” trip, but Beijing warned the United States was “playing with fire”.
Tsai arrived in Guatemala on Friday afternoon, where she was received with military honours and met by Foreign Minister Mario Bucaro.
She held a brief meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, whose government has declared Taiwan “the only and true China”, before the two staged a joint press conference reaffirming their bond.
“The ties between Guatemala and Taiwan are unbreakable,” Giammattei said.
“We promote resolving disputes by dialogue and negotiation, and work together to satisfy people’s desire for freedom, prosperity, development, and territorial integrity,” he added.
“For Guatemala, this visit is very significant to renew and reaffirm the full support to the government of Taiwan, reiterating the recognition of Taiwan as an independent nation and as the only true China,” Giammattei said.
Tsai called Guatemala “a solid diplomatic ally of Taiwan” in a speech.
“In recent years we have continued to consolidate our cooperation in the areas of health, economy, trade and basic infrastructure,” she said.
She also thanked Giammattei for his support last year when China was carrying out military manoeuvres against the island.
On Saturday Tsai will visit the majestic Mayan ruins of Tikal in the north of the country, and on Sunday she will head to the new Chimaltenango hospital in the west, built with a US$22 million donation from Taipei.
Then she will travel to Belize, where she is scheduled to meet Prime Minister John Briceno on Monday before departing the next day.
On her way back to Taiwan, Tsai plans to stop in Los Angeles, where McCarthy has said he will meet her.