Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has begun a visit to Eswatini, Taipei’s last African ally, saying the island will continue to confidently engage with the world and show it is a force for good.
Tsai was welcomed on Tuesday by Eswatini’s Prime Minister Cleopas Sipho Dlamini upon her arrival in the country formerly known as Swaziland. She is expected to stay in the tiny landlocked kingdom until Thursday to mark the 55th anniversary of its independence, as well as 55 years of bilateral relations.
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[PHOTOS]: Taiwan 🇹🇼 President H.E Tsai Ing-wen met by Prime Minister Cleopas Sipho Dlamini as she arrives in the country. H.E Tsai is expected to attend the country’s 55/55 Double Celebrations, among other important activities she will undertake. pic.twitter.com/PfPNJph3WO
— Eswatini Government (@EswatiniGovern1) September 5, 2023
Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory with no right to state-to-state relations, now has formal ties with only 13 countries, almost all small, less developed nations in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
Since Tsai took office in 2016, China has started putting pressure on countries that have a diplomatic relationship with Taiwan to switch their formal recognition from Taiwan to China. Beijing has successfully poached nine countries.
Taiwan’s most recent diplomatic loss was Honduras, which switched recognition to Beijing in March.
Tsai, speaking at the airport before leaving for Eswatini, said the southern African country was a “familiar old friend”.
“Not only will Taiwan’s footsteps to the world not stop, we will continue to move forward more firmly and self-confidently, so that the world can see Taiwan’s steady force for good,” she said, in comments broadcast live by the presidential office.
Eswatini is almost entirely surrounded by South Africa, which Chinese President Xi Jinping visited last month.
Tsai, who last visited Eswatini in 2018, is accompanied by Economy Minister Wang Mei-hua. She flew directly without having to stop over anywhere, unlike visits to Latin America which require transits via the United States that always anger China.
Taiwan has provided large amounts of aid to the country ruled by an absolute monarchy, including in 2021 antiviral medication to help King Mswati III recover from COVID.