Presidents of Taiwan and Guatemala Reaffirm Ties Amid China Pressure

Presidents of Taiwan and Guatemala Reaffirm Ties Amid China Pressure – Over the weekend, Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan, and Alejandro Giammattei, the president of Guatemala, visited the jungle ruins of a Maya civilization citadel. There, they witnessed an ancient ritual before reaffirming their diplomatic ties.

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Against the backdrop of China’s diplomatic offensive, which views Taiwan as a part of its territory awaiting reunification, the two leaders shook hands in front of the El Gran Jaguar stone pyramid and pledged to maintain strong relations. The assembled dignitaries “witness today the strengthening of the friendship between our nations”, said Jenny Barrios, Guatemalan deputy culture minister.

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Following a Maya dance ceremony during which a bonfire was lit, the two presidents proceeded to a nearby esplanade where they exchanged a symbolic handshake for an official photograph. They also observed a traditional ballgame, which was played during Mayan times.

During a meeting with Giammattei on Friday evening, Tsai expressed gratitude for his support during last year’s military manoeuvres by China near Taiwan. Additionally, she emphasized the significance of the cooperation between Taiwan and Guatemala, which is one of only 13 countries in the world that maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan. These countries are mostly small nations located in the Caribbean, Pacific, and Latin America regions.

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Speaking to the media with Tsai at his side, Giammattei called Taiwan “the one and only true China.” Some Guatemalans believe their nation is losing economic opportunities by choosing Taiwan over mainland China. “China is a market of more than one billion people, and it would be in the interest of some Guatemalan sectors to export and import products from China,” sociologist and political analyst Miguel Angel Sandoval said.

Honduras’s decision to switch diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China led to accusations of “dollar diplomacy” being levelled at Beijing. Tsai is scheduled to visit a recently constructed hospital in the western Guatemalan city of Chimaltenango on Sunday. The hospital was funded with a generous $22 million donation from Taipei. Tsai is embarking on a visit to Belize and a newly constructed hospital in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. 

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Her visit coincides with Honduras’ recent decision to sever diplomatic ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing, which does not recognize countries that maintain relations with Taiwan. The president of Honduras, Xiomara Castro, is also expected to travel to China in the near future. On her way home, Tsai will stop in California to meet with US house speaker Kevin McCarthy, a meeting that has prompted China to warn Washington that it is “playing with fire.”

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