Officials in Taiwan say President Chen Shui-bian is expected to travel to Central America and the Caribbean next week.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Nicaragua and Guatemala are among the nations on his itinerary.

The Taipei Times Wednesday quotes a government spokesman as saying the trip is aimed at strengthening friendship between Taiwan and its allies.

Taipei's participation in diplomatic affairs has been a controversial issue since 1949, when Taiwan and China split at the end of a civil war. China continues to claim sovereignty over Taiwan.

Only 26 countries, mostly small nations in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, recognize Taiwan's government.

The United States recognizes the People's Republic of China as China's sole legal government, and acknowledges Beijing's position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of it.

Some information for this report provided by AP.