President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen has thanked Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), Ralph Gonsalves for visiting the Asian nation amid heightened tension across the Taiwan Strait.
Gonsalves arrived in Taiwan on Sunday on what was expected to be the final day of Chinese military live fire drills near Taiwan.
However, since then, Beijing has announced a fresh set of drills, which experts say give an indication of what an attempt by China to take over Taiwan could look like.
China, which claims the self-ruled Taiwan as a part of its territory, is carrying out the military drills in response to the visit to Taipei last week by Speaker of the US House of Representative, Nancy Pelosi, as part of a tour of Asia.
Tsai said she was deeply touched by Gonsalves’ visit – his 10th as prime minister and the first since being re-elected to a fifth consecutive term in November 2020, Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) reported.
Tsai, who visited SVG in 2019, described Gonsalves as a “close and dear friend of Taiwan,” CNA said.
Tsai said that since establishing diplomatic ties in 1981, Kingstown and Taipei have supported each other and have achieved much together, despite the constantly changing international landscape.
She noted that before departing SVG for the official visit, Gonsalves said that the military drills would not prevent him from visiting his friends in Taiwan.
Tsai spoke following a military parade in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei to welcome Gonsalves and his delegation.
CNA said that after the military salute, Gonsalves delivered a speech by live stream in which he said Taiwan and SVG are island nations that share common values related to “the protection and promotion of democracy and human rights”.
Commenting on the Chinese drills, Gonsalves said, “… we do not like it and do not support any powerful neighbour seeking to intimidate us or bully us…
“Wherever there are differences, we must settle them peacefully in a civilised manner.”
He said the visit was meant to express SVG’s solidarity with Taiwan and to work further to strengthen bilateral relations and secure peace, security and prosperity for all.
Gonsalves also thanked Taiwan for assisting SVG after the April 2021 volcanic eruption and in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, Gonsalves and Tsai attended meetings to discuss issues of mutual interest, witnessed the signing of a bilateral judicial cooperation agreement and a letter of intent for collaboration in higher education to further deepen bilateral judicial and educational cooperation, the Presidential Office said.
Speaking shortly after arriving in Taiwan on Sunday, Gonsalves called on China to stop the military exercises, adding that China and Taiwan are “different legitimate political expressions of Chinese civilisation,” and that he expects that these differences can be resolved peacefully over time.
Before departing Kingstown, he had said that he would write to China asking it to cease its military aggression toward Taiwan. However, it is not clear whether the prime minister has dispatched any such communication.
Kingstown’s Agency for Public Information said on Aug. 3 that Gonsalves’ delegation consists of Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Angie Jackson, Minister of National Mobilisation Dr. Orando Brewster and his wife, Latheisha Brewster, Taiwan Ambassador to SVG, Peter Sha-Li Lan, Chairman of the National Insurance Services, Lennox Bowman, Shevrell Macmillan of the API and the prime minister’s security officer, Sergeant Kendal Horne.
CNA said that in Taiwan, Gonsalves will sign agreements with Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice on mutual assistance and the transfer of prisoners and a letter of intent with the Ministry of Education to strengthen cooperation in higher education.
Gonsalves will also meet with Premier Su Tseng-chang, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and Chen Chi-mai, mayor of Kaohsiung, a city in southern Taiwan, and visit the SVG Embassy in Taipei and the International Cooperation and Development Fund, MOFA said.
Gonsalves is expected to leave Taiwan on Friday
SVG is one of 14 nations that recognise Taiwan as a state separate from China.