President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou.

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Caribbean countries that maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan can expect a visit from the nation’s president sometime soon.

The Caribbean nations of Belize, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), and St. Lucia recognise Taiwan as an independent country, which China says is a renegade province and has not ruled out the use of force in its quest for reunification.

Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-joeu told reporters on Saturday that when he took office four years ago, he decided to visit all of Taiwan’s 23 diplomatic allies and hopes to visit those in the Caribbean sometime in the near future.

Ma was speaking inflight during a 12-day, three-nation trip to Taiwan’s diplomatic allies Burkina Faso, The Gambia, and Swaziland — his first trip to Africa since becoming president in May 2008.

He will next month begin his second and final term as president.

St. Vincent reaffirms Taiwan ties

Ma’s announcement of his plans to visit the Caribbean came less than one week after the opposition leader in SVG reiterated his party’s support for his country’s continued recognition of Taiwan even as the relationship between Taipei and Beijing has improved over the past four years.

“… I know today that a lot of people are wondering, in light of the negotiation taking place between Taiwan and communist China, what future lies in that relationship,” said Arnhim Eustace, president of the New Democratic Party (NDP).

“I will simply say this, at the present time, I am sure that various parties are examining that situation. The people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines know that situation. At the moment, the New Democratic Party will still want to carry on its relationship with Taiwan. I want to make that very plain,” he further said.

Eustace was at the time responding at a press briefing to a question from former NDP chair, ex-lawmaker Jerry Scott.

Scott said “the one China policy … has been touted throughout the world now” and asked how rising unemployment in Taiwan “will affect their continuing contribution” to SVG.

“Taiwan has been a major contributor to the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for a long, long, long time,” said Eustace, a former prime minister and minister of finance.

“Their contribution to us has often been seen as one where they want to be assured of our vote and support for them in the United Nations and other circles.”

He said that every administration in SVG, since it gained independence in 1979, has had “good relations with Taiwan”.

“Taiwan, to my mind, has lived up to its obligations which they entered into with relation to assisting us in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Eustace said.

SVG’s Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, in congratulating Ma on his re-election, said in January that Ma, “during his first four years, has shown his commitment to the strengthening of relations between our two countries and we have reciprocated.”

In his letter of congratulations, Gonsalves asked Ma to consider visiting Taiwan’s Caribbean allies during his second term in office.

Former president Chen Shui-bian visited SVG and Taiwan’s other allies in the Caribbean in 2005.

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