June 16, 2024

Paraguay, Pacific island leaders to attend Taiwan inauguration

Eight heads of state will be among the 51 international delegations attending the inauguration of Taiwan’s new leader next week, Taipei said Friday.

Incoming president Lai Ching-te will be sworn in on Monday against a backdrop of increasing diplomatic and military pressure from neighbour China, which claims the democratic island as part of its territory. 

The eight leaders attending the inauguration include President Santiago Pena from Paraguay — Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in South America — as well as Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine, Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr and new Tuvalu Prime Minister Feleti Teo. 

A total of 51 high-level delegations — including from the United States, Japan and Canada — will be part of the ceremony as a show of support for Taiwan’s democracy. 

Only 12 countries and states, including the Vatican, diplomatically recognise Taiwan, and China refuses to engage with governments that do. 

During outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen’s eight-year tenure, Beijing poached 10 of Taiwan’s remaining allies in a bid to pressure her government over its rejection of China’s claim on the self-ruled island. 

Lai, who served as Tsai’s vice president the past four years and maintains the same stance on Taiwan’s sovereignty, has been labelled a “dangerous separatist” by Beijing. 

Two days after he won the election in January, the Pacific Island nation of Nauru announced it was switching diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China. 

Taipei has since made overtures to its remaining allies in the Pacific, where there has been heightened concern about Beijing’s increasing reach and expanded security ties. 

Paraguay’s President Pena — who last year visited Taiwan before his own inauguration — will leave for Taipei on Saturday after an official trip to Washington, a high-ranking official told AFP Thursday. 

The first head of state to confirm his attendance, Pena has been among Taiwan’s most vocal supporters, calling in September for Taiwan’s readmission to the United Nations.

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