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Taiwan President Arrives in Belize to Reaffirm Alliance

Members of the Taiwanese community in Paraguay hold up an image of Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen upon her arrival for the Aug. 15 ceremony at the Silvio Pettirossi International Airport in Luque, Paraguay, Aug. 14, 2018.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen arrived in Belize Thursday as she seeks to shore up dwindling alliances in the face of pressure from China to stamp out the island’s international recognition.

Belize is one of 18 countries that recognize Taiwan, with Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic shifting diplomatic ties to China earlier this year.

The Caribbean country’s decision to ditch Taiwan came after Panama, which turned from Taiwan to Beijing in June 2017.

Order of Belize

Tsai arrived in Belize for her first state visit to the tiny Central American country after a stop in the United States and Paraguay. She met privately with Belize’s foreign minister and other government officials.

Later she was expected to receive the “Order of Belize,” an honor awarded to foreigners, before speaking Friday to Belize’s House of Representatives.

In a statement issued before Tsai’s visit, the Taiwanese embassy emphasized that the trip would reaffirm the strength of the island’s relationship with Belize, with which it has maintained diplomatic ties since October 1989.

Belize “remained Taiwan’s staunch ally in its bid for participation in U.N. agencies,” the statement said, adding: “Taiwan is Belize’s loyal and trustworthy ally.”

Comfortable relationship

Belize’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington told Reuters this month that he was “very content with the relationship we have with Taiwan.”

Taiwan offers Belize financial aid in the hundreds of millions of Belize dollars, ranging from scholarships to agricultural aid and health care, Elrington said.

Taipei has struggled internationally to maintain diplomatic relations with an increasingly assertive China, despite efforts in recent years to strengthen ties with generous aid packages.