Taiwanese leader seeks visits from Central American allies

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MEXICO CITY (AP) As Taiwan’s diplomatic partners dwindle and it turns to rival China instead, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen will visit Central America this week to strengthen ties with the autonomous island’s remaining allies. Aiming to do

Tsai landed in Guatemala on Friday afternoon and walked the red carpet alongside Guatemala’s foreign minister.

In an address to the leaders of Guatemala and Belize shortly before her departure, President Tsai said the visit was an opportunity to demonstrate Taiwan’s commitment to democratic values ​​to the world.

“External pressure does not hinder our determination to step onto the world stage. We are calm and confident. We do not submit, but we do not provoke,” Tsai said during her stay in the United States. He will also meet with Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. But the visit is also aimed at cementing ties with Latin America as China pours money into it and pressures itself to cut ties with the autonomous democratic island. .

China has gone to great lengths to diplomatically isolate Taiwan since the election of President Tsai in 2016.

The Chinese government considers Tsai and her independent Democratic Progressive Party to be separatists.

Tensions have only escalated in recent months as relations between Beijing and Washington soar. As a result, regions like Central America have gained geopolitical importance.

“While our policy has not changed, what has changed is Beijing’s growing coercion like trying to cut off Taiwan’s relations with countries around the world,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a speech about China relations last year.

Guatemala and Belize are among those who have remained steadfast supporters of Taiwan, Guatemala’s government reaffirming in March its “recognition of Taiwan as an independent nation with which democratic values ​​and mutual respect are shared.”

Yet analysts say their allegiance is also a political calculation.

Tiziano Breda, researcher at International Affairs Institute, said that position will likely be wielded politically, used as a potential shield against pressure from the U.S.

The U.S. government, for example, has been highly critical of the administration of President Alejandro Giammattei for not doing enough to crack down on corruption.

“It’s a card these countries wait to play,” Breda said.

Dreyer of University of Miami said many of Taiwan’s allies will use their relationship with both China and Taiwan as a “bargaining chip” to seek greater investment and monetary benefits from both countries. She said at Ingwen’s meetings with Guatemala and Belize that the president is likely to offer investment and development projects that depend on maintaining good relations with her country.

But Dreyer noted that given China’s power on the world stage, it’s only a matter of time before the economic giant wins Taiwan’s last diplomatic partner.

The Chinese “are not just willing to wait, they want to wait until they think the time is right,” Dreyer said. “They want the most promising moment possible.”