The prime minister of Belize gave Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen a welcome diplomatic boost during her visit on Monday, underlining his nation’s support for Taiwan after rival China gained a new regional ally last month.
Tsai’s visit comes a week after Honduras severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in favor of Beijing amid heightened U.S.-China tensions. China claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory with no right to state-to-state ties, a position Taipei strongly rejects.
“Belize welcomes you into our home with open arms,” Prime Minister John Briceno told Tsai during a joint session of the National Assembly in Belmopan, the capital of the small Central American country of some 400,000 people.
Briceno ticked off some of Taipei’s largesse, thanking it for scholarships, farming programs and a $16.5 million grant to build a hospital in the island town and popular tourist hub of San Pedro.
As Tsai listened, Briceno applauded a declaration lawmakers passed last month reaffirming Belize’s formal recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign and independent country.
In her remarks, Tsai spoke of “expansionist threats from authoritarian regimes,” adding that “the people of Taiwan face constant threats from the neighbor on the other side of the Taiwan Straits,” referring to China.
On Sunday, Tsai wrapped up a three-day visit to neighboring Guatemala, Central America’s largest economy, and before that made a controversial stopover in New York, angering China, which has repeatedly warned U.S. officials not to meet her.
Guatemala and Belize are two of just 13 countries that Taiwan has diplomatic relations with. Honduras was the latest in a series of Central American countries to switch allegiance to Beijing in recent years, including Nicaragua, Panama and El Salvador.
The Taiwanese leader is set to meet with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in a second U.S. stopover in California on Wednesday.
Source : Reuters