Tsai Makes 9-Day Trip to Latin America
President Tsai Ing-wen departed on August 12 on a trip to Paraguay and Belize, two of the countries with which Taiwan continues to maintain full diplomatic relations, with stopovers in the United States. On her arrival in Los Angeles, Tsai was greeted at the airport by the U.S.-based Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan James Moriarty and what was estimated to be a crowd of some 1,200 Taiwanese-American supporters. There were also several dozen pro-China demonstrators shouting slogans against Taiwanese independence.
While in California, Tsai spoke at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, her first public speech in the United States since becoming president, and visited the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office’s Culture Center. It was the first time a Taiwan president had paid a visit to one of the country’s representative offices in the United States.
In Paraguay, Tsai attended the inauguration of the country’s new president, Mario Abdo Benitez, and also met with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and Honduran Vice President Olga Alvarado, other guests at the inauguration festivities. In meetings with their Paraguayan counterparts, Tsai and members of her delegation discussed projects for Taiwanese assistance to the South American countries in the areas of agriculture, technology, economic development. Last year the two countries agreed to cooperate in establishing a technical university in Paraguay, with Taiwan to take responsibility for supplying the faculty, curricula, and lab equipment.
In Belize, Tsai was decorated by Governor-General Colville Young and discussed programs for bilateral cooperation.
The return leg of Tsai’s trip was through Houston, where she toured the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA). Taiwan and the United States have been collaborating on weather satellites.
Taichung Loses Chance to Host East Asian Games
An extraordinary meeting of the East Asian Olympics Committee (EAOC) convened in late July revoked the body’s previous decision to award Taichung the role as host city for the 2019 East Asian Youth Games. Construction was already well along on many of the athletic facilities for the Games, which would have been the first time for Taiwan to serve as the site for an Olympics-related event. The EAOC’s decision to shift the venue was reportedly instigated by China, which has recently taken a harder line toward Taiwan. In particular, Beijing is said to have been angered by an attempt in Taiwan to hold a referendum on whether to have national teams compete in international competitions under the name “Taiwan” rather than as “Chinese Taipei,” which has been required by the International Olympics Committee since 1979. Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung issued a formal complaint to the EAOC, calling its actions a violation of the contractual agreement signed with his city, as well as contravention of the Olympic spirit. Taichung’s appeal was rejected by the EAOC in mid-August.
Think Tank to Support New Southbound Policy
In line with its New Southbound Policy, the government has established a think tank, the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation (TAEF), to help strengthen Taiwan’s engagement with other countries in the region as a counterweight to China’s economic influence. Senior Presidential Advisor Michael Hsiao, a sociologist at Academia Sinica, has been appointed chairman of the new organization. The executive director will be Yang Hao, director of the Southeast Asian Studies Center at National Chengchi University. The New Southbound Policy is targeting 18 countries, with special emphasis on the ASEAN member countries, India, Australia, and New Zealand, with the aim of increasing tourism, trade, educational and cultural connections, and other ties. One of TAEF’s responsibilities will be to organize the annual Yushan Forum, which brings together leading thinkers from around the region to discuss important topics of mutual concern.
El Salvador Shifts Diplomatic Recognition
On August 20, one day after President Tsai’s successful diplomacy in Latin America, Taiwan and El Salvador severed relations after the Central American country announced that it was shifting recognition to Beijing. El Salvador became the fifth country – following Sao Tome and Principe, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Burkina Faso – since the Tsai administration took office in May 2016. Taiwan is now left with diplomatic relations with just 17 countries.
During the previous eight-year Ma Ying-jeou administration, China had pursued a “diplomatic truce” with Taiwan, refraining from wooing away any of its diplomatic allies. But Beijing has been increasing its pressure on Taiwan since Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party took power. China is unhappy that Tsai has refused to affirm that Taiwan is part of “One China,” not even accepting the formulation that each side can have its own interpretation of what constitutes One China.
The U.S. government reportedly had tried to discourage El Salvador from breaking with Taiwan and took an unusually harsh stance in condemning that decision and Beijing’s part in it. “The El Salvador government’s receptiveness to China’s apparent interference in the domestic politics of a Western Hemisphere country is of grave concern to the United States and will result in a re-evaluation of our relationship with El Salvador,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “The United States will continue to oppose China’s destabilization of the cross-strait relationship and political interference in the Western Hemisphere.”