Tsai Ing-wen's visit to Guatemala and Belize comes days after Honduras ditched Taiwan in favour of China, leaving the country with only 13 nations that diplomatically recognise it.
Taiwan's Tsai Ing-wen has arrived in Guatemala on a visit to shore up ties with dwindling allies following a trip to the United States that angered China.
Tsai arrived in Guatemala on Friday afternoon, where she was received with military honors and met by Foreign Minister Mario Bucaro.
In a speech addressed to leaders of Guatemala and Belize shortly before departing on her visit, Tsai framed the trip as a chance to show their commitment to democratic values globally.
"External pressure will not obstruct our resolution to go on the world stage. We will be calm, self-confident, we will not submit but also not provoke," said Tsai, who will also meet with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in a stopover in the United States.
In Guatemala and Belize, Tsai is expected to bring an open checkbook. But in a region under growing Chinese influence, analysts say that Taiwan may already have lost the long game.
"These countries, they are symbolic. And I don't think Taiwan wants to lose any of them," said June Teufel Dreyer, a political scientist at University of Miami. "But if China is going to indulge in checkbook diplomacy, I don’t think Taiwan can compete and it knows it."
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¡Qué gusto recibirla, presidenta Tsai Ing-wen @iingwen! Bienvenida a Guatemala.#VisitaTaiwánGT 🇬🇹🇹🇼 pic.twitter.com/gemRJqfgxo— Alejandro Giammattei (@DrGiammattei) April 1, 2023
Honduras breaks ties with Taiwan
The visit comes just days after Honduras became the latest country to break with Taiwan in favour of establishing ties with China.
Honduras follows in the footsteps of Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Costa Rica in ditching Taiwan.
As the Asian superpower has sought to isolate Taipei and expand its power on the global stage, Chinese trade and investment in Latin America has soared.
Between 2005 and 2020, the Chinese have invested more than $130 billion in Latin America, according to the United States Institute of Peace.
Trade between China and the region has also shot up, and is expected to reach more than $700 billion by 2035.
It left Taiwan with no more than 13 official diplomatic partners.
More than half of those are small countries in Latin America and the Caribbean: Belize, Guatemala, Paraguay, Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
China calls Taiwan its own territory that will be brought under its control by force if necessary.
China has spent a great amount of effort in its campaign to diplomatically isolate Taiwan ever since Tsai's election in 2016, successfully convincing nine countries to break off relations with Taipei since she has been in office.
In recent months, tensions have only intensified as relations between Beijing and Washington have spiralled. As a result, regions like Central America have grown in geopolitical importance.
Tiziano Breda, researcher at International Affairs Institute, said many of Taiwan's allies will use their relationship with both China and Taiwan as a "bargaining chip" to seek greater investment and monetary benefits from both countries.
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