Guatemala Leader Vows to Stand by 'Solid' Ally Taiwan

Guatemala President Aleiandro Eduardo Giammattei Falla (C) speaks next to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen during a military welcome ceremony in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei on April 25, 2023. Photo by Sam Yeh / AFP

Taipei, Taiwan -- Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei pledged support on Tuesday for "solid diplomatic ally" Taiwan during a visit to the self-ruled island that has been slammed by China.

The Central American nation is one of the few remaining countries to recognise Taiwan, a list that has shrunk in recent years as Beijing moves to isolate Taipei on the international stage.

China considers democratic Taiwan a part of its territory to be taken one day, and does not allow nations to recognise both Beijing and Taipei.

Giammattei, who arrived Monday for a four-day visit, vowed to "stand by the Republic of Taiwan as a solid diplomatic ally" at a military welcome ceremony in Taipei.

He addressed Taiwan's parliament hours later and called for an end to Chinese aggression toward the island.

"Let us be in solidarity with those who are under constant siege from the other side of the Taiwan Strait," Giammattei said.

"Guatemala is a pacifist country. That is why I demand the immediate silence of the war drums."

He also reiterated support for Taiwan's sovereignty: "Guatemala maintains its unalterable position in favour of the recognition of Taiwan as an independent nation".

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen thanked Giammattei for his support.

"I look forward to our countries deepening relations and exploring more opportunities for cooperation through this visit," she said at the welcoming ceremony.

Giammattei is also scheduled to visit a technology company in Taichung city and attend an event promoting Guatemalan coffee, according to Tsai's office.

- Diplomatic battleground -

Tsai travelled this month to Guatemala and Belize, the only other Central American country that recognises Taipei, to firm up diplomatic relations after Honduras switched allegiance to Beijing in March.

She stopped in the United States to meet Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy on her way back to Taipei.

China staged three days of military exercises simulating targeted strikes and a blockade of Taiwan in response.

Beijing has criticised Giammattei's trip and said switching recognition to China, a major trading partner for the Central American nation, was in Guatemala's interests.

Taiwan's defence ministry said Tuesday it had detected nine Chinese aircraft and 11 warships around the island in the past 24 hours, the highest number of naval vessels since the war drills ended two weeks ago.

Latin America has been a key diplomatic battleground for China and Taiwan since the two split in 1949 after a civil war.

Beijing has spent decades convincing Taipei's diplomatic allies to switch sides, gaining nine since Tsai took office in 2016.

Taiwan's ties with Paraguay are also at risk, with opposition candidate Efrain Alegre reportedly saying he would switch recognition to Beijing if he wins the presidential election on April 30.

© Agence France-Presse

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