2023-0330: Taiwan’s President Tsai Arrives in New York; Biden, Trudeau Call for Taiwan Strait Peace; Honduras Ends Diplomatic Ties With Taiwan

Taiwan’s President Tsai Arrives in New York En Route to Central America

On March 29, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen arrived in New York on a stopover ahead of visits to Taiwan’s allies in Central America. After visiting Guatemala and Belize, Tsai is scheduled to travel to Los Angeles on her way back home.

The trip to Guatemala and Belize — her first overseas journey since the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping around the world in early 2020 — aims to “demonstrate Taiwan’s determination to deepen exchanges” with its Central American allies, President Tsai said.

The presidential delegation would stop over in New York en route to Guatemala and Los Angeles after visiting Belize, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said.

Tsai arrived in New York at 3 p.m. local time on March 29 and was warmly welcomed by hundreds of overseas Taiwanese waiting outside a hotel in Manhattan. Tsai would spend nearly two days in the city, where she is expected to address an event hosted by the Hudson Institute and receive a “global leadership award” from the think tank.

Tsai will visit Guatemala from April 1-3 and Belize from April 3-5, according to MOFA. 

On her return trip, Tsai will touch down in Los Angeles on the morning of April 5 for a transit. While in the city, she is expected to meet with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy and deliver a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Despite a lack of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the U.S., Washington has over the years allowed Taiwan’s presidents to make stopovers on U.S. soil during their trips to Latin American and Caribbean nations.

However, on March 29, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Zhu Fenglian told a news briefing in Beijing that Tsai’s stopovers in the U.S. constitute an act of “provocation.”

The U.S. government has tried to downplay Tsai’s presence in the U.S. with White House national security spokesman John Kirby telling reporters on March 29 that “China should not use this transit as a pretext to step up any [aggressive] activity around the Taiwan Strait.”

On March 29, U.S. Department of State spokesperson Vedant Patel told a separate press conference, “Transits by high-level Taiwan authorities are not visits. They are private and unofficial, and they are not new.” “President Tsai has transited the U.S. six times since taking office in 2016. This will be her seventh transit,” he added.

FAPA President Minze Chien reacts: “We Taiwanese Americans urge the Congress to invite Taiwan’s democratically elected President Tsai Ing-wen to Washington DC during her U.S. transit to share with members of Congress her views on the best ever U.S.-Taiwan relations in history that we witness today and to address a joint session of Congress.”

Dr. Chien adds: “With the Taiwan Travel Act having been signed into U.S. law in 2018, and effectively lifted all restrictions on high-level visit from and to Taiwan, we believe there are zero legal restrictions on President Tsai coming to Washington DC during her time in the United States. Such a visit would also be consistent with longstanding U.S. policy versus Taiwan and with the provisions of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act — the “Law of the Land.”

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202303290008
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2023/03/30/2003796983
[3] Nikkei Asia: https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Taiwan-tensions/Taiwan-s-Tsai-arrives-in-New-York-en-route-to-Central-America

Biden, Trudeau Call for Peace in Taiwan Strait

On March 24, U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a joint statement reiterating the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, as they encouraged China to resolve issues with Taiwan peacefully.

“We emphasize that our basic positions on Taiwan remain unchanged, and reiterate the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as an indispensable element of security and prosperity in the international community,” the two leaders said in a joint statement issued during Biden’s visit to Ottawa.

“We encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues,” it added.

The statement said that “Canada and the United States acknowledge the serious long-term challenge to the international order posed by the People’s Republic of China, including disruptive actions such as economic coercion, non-market policies and practices, and human rights abuses.”

Canada and the United States “remain committed to ensuring our ability to compete effectively with China on a level playing field” and “will also continue to cooperate on countering foreign interference in our societies in a manner that reflects our shared democratic values,” it said. 

The two leaders also “welcomed the first U.S.-Canada Indo-Pacific Strategic Dialogue on March 10 and will cooperate to promote a free, open, prosperous, secure, and resilient Indo-Pacific,” it added.

Biden said the U.S. had expanded alliances including with NATO, the G7, South Korea, and the “Quad” nations of the U.S., Australia, India and Japan.

[1] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2023/03/26/2003796741

Taiwan, Honduras Sever Diplomatic Ties

Taiwan severed diplomatic relations with Honduras, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said on March 26, about an hour and a half after the Honduran Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the nation would cut its diplomatic ties with Taiwan and seek formal relations with China.

“To safeguard Taiwan’s sovereignty and dignity, Taiwan is terminating diplomatic ties with Honduras with immediate effect” after communication with the country failed, Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu said at a press conference.

Honduran President Xiomara Castro and her administration “always had a fantasy about China,” which has been using the lure of economic gain to attract Honduras, Wu said.

Taiwan has been striving to maintain good relations with Honduras with utmost sincerity since Castro took office in January 2022, but her government requested huge economic “assistance” from Taiwan, he said.

Honduras last year requested that Taiwan provide US$45 million to help build a hospital and another US$300 million to help build a dam, in addition to paying US$2 billion of their national debt, he said.

In a letter to Wu dated March 14, Honduran Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina wrote that Honduras is raising its demands to US$90 million and US$350 million respectively, which amounted to US$2.44 billion with the national debt request, Wu said.

Unlike cooperative projects with other diplomatic allies, it seemed that Honduras “wanted money, instead of a hospital,” he said, adding that this kind of “opaque aid” is not what Taiwan should provide.

Over the years, Taiwan implemented joint projects in Honduras that benefited its economy and people’s livelihood in a wide range of fields, joined relief efforts immediately after floods struck, and sent technical missions to provide help on agricultural, fishery and healthcare projects, he said.

It is “saddening and regretful” that Honduras disregarded Taiwan’s long-term assistance and friendship, and began negotiations to establish diplomatic ties with China, he added.

By repeatedly making false promises to lure away Taiwan’s diplomatic allies and suppress its diplomatic space, China “is pushing cross-strait relations in the wrong direction,” he said.

Taiwan would not succumb to China’s pressure and coercion, and would unite with allies and like-minded countries based on freedom and democracy to maintain regional peace and stability, while striving for Taiwan’s due international status, he said.

Taiwan’s Presidential Office also said in a statement that Taiwan would “not engage in a meaningless contest of dollar diplomacy with China.” Suppressing Taiwan’s international space and undermining regional peace do not change the fact that Taiwan and China are not subordinate to each other, it added.

Meanwhile, on March 25, Honduran Vice President Salvador Nasralla expressed opposition to Castro’s decision to establish ties with China, saying it would result in severe consequences and lead the country into poverty.

After Honduras’ diplomatic switch to China, Taiwan is left with 13 diplomatic allies worldwide.

Guatemala and Belize are the only two countries in Central America that still maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202303260003
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2023/03/27/2003796786