Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen arrived in Belize Thursday as she seeks to shore up dwindling alliances in the face of pressure from China to stamp out the island’s international recognition.
Belize is one of 18 countries that recognize Taiwan, with Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic shifting diplomatic ties to China earlier this year.
The Caribbean country’s decision to ditch Taiwan came after Panama, which turned from Taiwan to Beijing in June 2017.
Tsai arrived in Belize for her first state visit to the tiny Central American country after a stop in the United States and Paraguay. She met privately with Belize’s foreign minister and other government officials.
Later she was expected to receive the “Order of Belize,” an honor awarded to foreigners, before speaking Friday to Belize’s House of Representatives.
In a statement issued before Tsai’s visit, the Taiwanese embassy emphasized that the trip would reaffirm the strength of the island’s relationship with Belize, with which it has maintained diplomatic ties since October 1989.
Belize “remained Taiwan’s staunch ally in its bid for participation in U.N. agencies,” the statement said, adding: “Taiwan is Belize’s loyal and trustworthy ally.”
Belize’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington told Reuters this month that he was “very content with the relationship we have with Taiwan.”
Taiwan offers Belize financial aid in the hundreds of millions of Belize dollars, ranging from scholarships to agricultural aid and health care, Elrington said.
Taipei has struggled internationally to maintain diplomatic relations with an increasingly assertive China, despite efforts in recent years to strengthen ties with generous aid packages.
The president of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Tsai Ing-Wen is in Belize. There was a grand celebration for her at the airport when she arrived. Courtney Weatherburne has the story.
The Belizean and Taiwanese flags were raised high at the PGIA this afternoon. Below the fluttering flags, was a group of by-standers anxiously awaiting the arrival of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen.
The crisp-uniformed BDF marched along to the beat of their drums. And then at around 2:40 the China airlines flight touched down on the tarmac.
Governor General of Belize Sir Colville Young, Foreign Affairs Minister Wilfred Elrington and Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte walked over to greet her as she alighted the plane with her grand press delegation.
There was also a BDF helicopter fly over, and after that, it was all about niceties and formalities. It was a special state visit – one that Belizeans as well Taiwanese- Belizeans heartily embraced.
Jason Chan - Taiwanese-Belizean "It is a very honoured to see our president visiting Belize, we're very happy to see her here."
Reporter "What was it like? Did you ever thing you would meet her? Tell us a bit more, that experience."
Jason Chan "It's definitely one of a kind experience you know, especially the president being in front of you and then we're able to handshake and it's right in front of us. Normally you'll see the president on the TV but today it's right here."
Andy - Taiwanese-Belizean "It is always good to have your leader come to Belize and support, we just want everyone in Taiwan to know that all though we are in foreign part, we care about our country and we still support our homeland."
After she settled in, she attended the 2018 Taiwanese Scholarship Awards Ceremony at 5:10 at the Radisson. She is probably meeting with the Governor General Sir Colville Young right now, that meeting started at 6:30. There will also be a Special Joint Sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate tomorrow morning at 10:00 and then in the afternoon at 2:30 President Wen will visit the ITVET in Belize City. President Wen leaves on Saturday.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen Arrives in Belize
The Taiwanese community in Belize turned out in numbers to greet President Tsai Ing-wen of the Republic of China (Taiwan) upon her arrival at the Philip Goldson International Airport this afternoon. Belize and the island nation of Taiwan have both enjoyed a comfortable diplomatic relationship, however, Taiwan has lost two allies since President Tsai Ing-wen was elected to office in 2016. The President’s visit to Belize is seen as Taiwan cementing diplomatic ties in the face of China’s doubled down efforts to assert sovereignty over the self-ruled and democratic Taiwan. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo was at the P.G.I.A. this afternoon and has the story.
Hipolito Novelo, Reporting
The mid-afternoon at the Phillip Goldson International Airport was bustling with government officials, making sure everything was prepared for the arrival of Tsai Ing-wen, the President of the Republic of China (Taiwan). The President arrived in Belize at around two thirty. She was first greeted by Governor General Sir Colville Young, and later by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilfred Elrington, Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte and Belize’s Ambassador to Taiwan, Diane Haylock. Thereafter, the Governor General and the President stood side by side for the playing of Taiwan’s national anthem after which the inspection of the Guard of Honor took place. Belize’s national anthem played next and in the background, the flags of both nations flew almost simultaneously- a representation of the diplomatic relationship shared by the two countries. Also there to meet the president were Taiwanese nationals living in Belize, like David Lin.
David Lin, Member of Taiwanese Community in Belize
“It’s always good to have your leaders to come to Belize and support. We just want everyone in Taiwan to know that although we are in foreign we care about our country and we still support our homeland.”
But his homeland needs a lot of diplomatic support on the international scene. Since President Tsai Ing-wen was elected to office in 2016, Taiwan’s allies decreased from twenty to eighteen. The latest nations to abandon Taiwan and recognize mainland China as the only China are the Caribbean’s Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso in West Africa. But Belize has kept alongside the island nation for many years.
Over the years, millions of dollars have been granted to the Government of Belize by the Taiwanese Government through bilateral negotiations and cooperation. The president’s official visit to Belize is seen by some as a “Journey of Joint Celebration” while others have interpreted it as President Tsai Ing-wen’s diplomatic endeavor to cement ties in the face of Beijing’s robust international effort to steal Taiwan’s remaining allies.
Patrick Andrews, C.E.O., Ministry of Foreign Affairs
“Basically, we have been a very important ally to Taiwan and we want to continue building on that relationship and deepening our relationship.”
That relationship is expected to grow stronger with the president’s visit.
Jason Chang, Member of Taiwanese Community in Belize
“It’s definitely one a kind experience especially the President being in front of you and being able to hand shake and be able to…right in front of us. Normally we see the President on the t.v. but today its right here.”
“What does it mean to you personally and to the Taiwanese community here?”
“I believe that it definitely strengthens our ties together especially countries.”
One of those countries is Paraguay which is where President, Tsai Ing-wen will travel to when she leaves Belize on Saturday. Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.
Today, H.E. Tsai Ing-wen, President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) arrived in Belize for a three-day visit, from the 16th to 18th of August 2018, on the invitation of the Right Honorable Dean O. Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize. This is President Tsai’s first visit to Belize. The presidential visit is expected to enhance mutual understanding, expand exchanges and make further progress on developing and implementing joint initiatives spanning agriculture, education, information and communication technology, medical care and vocational training.
During the first day of the president’s visit, H.E. Sir Colville Young, Governor-General of Belize, conferred the Order of Belize on President Tsai, in recognition of the valuable contributions that Taiwan has made to Belize’s development over the nearly three decades of friendship.
As a part of the visit, President Tsai will address the National Assembly. This will demonstrate the importance of parliamentary diplomacy between the two countries. President Tsai and her delegation will end their visit on Saturday after a short tour in Belize.
In March of 2016, Belize hosted the outgoing President His Excellency Ma Ying-Jeou. Belize and Taiwan established diplomatic ties in 1989, and have enjoyed strong bilateral relations ever since.
Click photos for more pictures!
Re: President Tsai arrives in Belize, receives warm welcome
#531884 08/18/1805:21 AM08/18/1805:21 AM
Yesterday, we took you to the Philip Goldson Airport for the official welcome that the Government of Belize gave to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen. She arrived on her first official visit here to an entourage of Government and law enforcement officials who were determined to see to it that her short stay would be pleasing and memorable as a head of state.
She left from the airport and immediately headed to a suite of activities, including the award ceremony for the latest crop of Belizean students who would be going away to study in Taiwan.
But, the biggest event of her official visit happened this morning when both the Senate and the House of Representatives convened for a special sitting. Our news team was there, and Daniel Ortiz reports:
A few minutes before the start of today’s special event, the majority of the parliamentarians from both the House of Representatives and the Senate were already seated in the House, awaiting the arrival of the Taiwanese President.
One of the last to arrive was Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who walked up the National Assembly steps and greeted the Belmopan Mayor, who appeared to be anticipating the arrival of today’s special guest.
And when President Wen’s vehicular entourage pulled up on Independence Hill, the many security personnel became active, making sure that she could safely enter the House.
At the top of the stairs, Mayor Khalid Belisle cordially greeted the President, and presented her with a small token.
By then, the entire National Assembly and the gallery already knew that she was in the building, and both the House Speaker and the Senate President went out to escort her in.
First to greet her at the entrance were both Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Opposition Leader John Briceño.
The other parliamentarians spotted her shortly after that, and she walked into the main chamber to a warm welcome.
Minutes later, everyone took their seat, and as the guest of honor, President Wen was given the center seat, which is usually reserved for the House Speaker or the Senate President, both of whom took their positions on her right and left flank.
The house was called to order, and Prime Minister Barrow was the first to formally welcome the President to the National Assembly, an occurrence that was very rare.
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister "On behalf of all the members of the national assembly madam president and indeed on behalf of the entire nation of Belize it gives me the greatest pleasure to welcome you to our capital city of Belmopan to our famed Independence Hill and of course to this national assembly. This is a joint sitting of the House of Representatives and of the senate convened especially in your honour. I hope I am not miss-recollecting but I don't think this happened more than one time in the past, certainly not more than two."
Shortly after that, the Prime Minister took his seat conceded the floor to President Wen, so that she address to the National Assembly. It became immediately apparent that she was very fluent in the English language.
Hon. Dr. Tsai Ing Wen - President of Taiwan "Yesterday, my first day in Belize I was very moved by the warm reception the people of Belize extended upon our arrival. It was touching to visit Taiwan Street where our embassy stands and be reminder of the friendship that has brought our two peoples closer together. I was especially pleased to have a chance to meet with young Belizeans and to offer 29 scholarships the most ever for their studies in Taiwan."
From there, the President reflected on the very long friendship between Belize and Taiwan, and the tangible expressions of that relationship that currently exists.
Hon. Dr. Tsai Ing Wen "Belize has accomplished a lot over its history for which the people of Belize should be woefully proud and the Republic of China Taiwan is so pleased to have played a part in support of that. I'm sure our work here has been felt by the distinguished members of the chamber. In Belize City the Taiwan technical mission has worked with local partners to revitalizing historical quarters which would benefit tourism and the preservation of history. We are supporting efforts by the institute for technical, vocational and education training to improve vocational training for young people. An essential farm agriculture station which is just a short distance from here where engaging with your farmers to introduce new agriculture produce and improve Belize's livestock and across the country our practitioners are working to strengthen the capabilities of the Belize Health Information system."
The President also had a special announcement of even more help that her country will be providing to Belize
Hon. Dr. Tsai Ing Wen "I'm pleased to announce here that further to increasing the number of Taiwan scholarships students for Belize which we have started improvement, we will also be inviting young Belizeans for short term vocational training programs in Taiwan (Applause from house). My administration has announced we will providing 520 vacancies to talented young individuals from across our diplomatic allies and for young people that are unable to come to Taiwan, we are also working with ITVET to improve their teaching facilities and the quality of their training programs here. Taiwan is also prepared to make more investment in Belize agriculture industry and infrastructure. Furthermore many members of my delegations are from the business sector and I will be personally Belize's biggest advocate in encouraging them to set up their operations here."
And if you're wondering why Taiwan - a nation that has already been very generous to Belize - is willing to provide more aid and technical assistance, the President said, that Belize's friendship with her country is invaluable on the international stage.
Hon. Dr. Tsai Ing Wen "Despite the great geographic differences between our 2 countries Belize remains close to our hearts. The Republic of China Taiwan is committed to supporting the national development of Belize as a friend and partner. We believe in the great potential of Belizean people and all that you are disdained to accomplish. In the international community Belize has also been an outspoken supporter for Taiwan. From the heart of the United Nations to different forums and organizations from around the world, Belize has acted as a voice for the international aspirations of the 23 million people of Taiwan. At a time of great political pressure against Taiwan's international space, you have spoken for the rights and obligations of Taiwan as a member of the international community. On behalf of the people of Taiwan I want to express my sincere gratitude for Belize's effort and thank you for your unwavering support and friendship."
At close of her address, Prime Minister Barrow injected a small bit of comic relief, softening the tone of today’s ceremony
Rt. Hon Dean Barrow "Madam President Dr. Tsai, it's been a short visit but there has been already very many delightful aspects to the visit and I was treated to an additional one when you spoke. I had already said to you when we met in my office that I was so much impressed by your fluency in English, I told you that I thought you speak English better than I do. Well I listened to you a while ago you're able to add to your trophies the fact that you also speak Spanish than I do (Laughter from the house). I gather this from the excellent way in which you pronounced the name of the leader of the opposition, complete with rolling R and tilde, Briceño. I have great difficulty doing it, madam have the advantage over me."
And just like that, the Special Sitting of the House and Senate concluded, and delegations from both Belize and Taiwan went off to other private events on the itinerary of the President’s official visit to Belize.
The last time there was a Special Sitting of the House and Senate, to welcome a visiting head of State, was back in May of 2009. Prime Minister Barrow and his administration welcomed the then Taiwanese President, Ma Ying-Jeou.