Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen leaves on first official trip to allies in central and Latin America


Taiwan : Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen leaves Friday on her first overseas trip since taking office last month, Meanwhile speculation that China may seek to tighten its diplomatic stranglehold on the self-governing island it claims as its own territory. 

Tsai told media at Taoyuan International Airport on Friday that her trip was aimed at raising Taiwan’s international profile, to visit Taiwanese citizens and organisations based in the two countries and to strengthen economic cooperation with Latin American nations. “Making friends should not be limited to official diplomatic relations,” she added. She will make a stopover in Miami on her way to Panama and transit in Los Angeles on her way back. She is due to return to Taiwan on July 2. 

Taiwan has formal diplomatic relations with just 22 nations as a result of China’s efforts to isolate the island. Most allies are in Central America, the Caribbean, Africa and the South Pacific. Meetings with heads of state from Taiwan’s diplomatic allies could be especially important at a time when some observers see China preparing to increase its diplomatic pressure in order to compel the independence-leaning Tsai to explicitly endorse Beijing’s stance that Taiwan is part of China.

A renewed effort to win away Taiwan’s remaining allies, primarily through offers of economic assistance, would be an indication that China plans to get tough on her administration. China in March established formal diplomatic ties with the small African nation of Gambia, which had severed relations with Taiwan in 2013. That was seen as a move toward abandoning the unspoken diplomatic truce between the sides that lasted for eight years under Tsai’s China-friendly predecessor.