BY ALFRED SASAKO
TAIWAN President Tsai Ing-wen will address Parliament next Thursday, informed sources told Island Sun yesterday.
The President, accompanied by a 109-strong entourage, flies into Honiara on Wednesday night, using three aircrafts. Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare was said to have briefed Government MPs on the visit yesterday.
Reports suggest she’s flying direct from Taipei to Honiara, although these reports do not align with last Friday’s announcement by Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei.
According to the announcement, The Taiwan leader will visit the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Solomon Islands between October 28 and November 4 — three of its six Pacific allies.
Despite the high profile visit, both the Government and the Taiwanese Embassy in Honiara have down played its significance, citing security considerations.
The Speaker of National Parliament, Ajilon Nasiu said early yesterday his Office was yet to be notified of arrangements for the President to address Parliament.
He believed if she were to address Parliament, it would be on Thursday morning, 02nd November. Her address to Parliament is expected to underline shared values as island nations and the need to maintain closer relationship, particularly in the face of China’s increasing influence in the Pacific.
She flies out on Friday November 3, 2017.
President Tsai’s visit was to have taken place last July. However, this was put on hold for some time, without any explanation.
She could announce Taiwan’s support to help Solomon Islands host the 2023 Pacific Games. Indication of support was made to Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare when he visited Taiwan last July. Sporting facilities for the Games have been costed at $271 million (about USD36 million).
Taiwan provides annual budgetary support of $100 million to Solomon Islands. Members of Parliament use the money to fund micro economic activities in their Constituencies.
President Tsai’s Pacific visit comes after Panama cut official ties with Taiwan in June, choosing instead to form diplomatic relations with China — leaving the island with only 20 nations worldwide that recognise it as a country.
Beijing has been wooing other countries to dump Taiwan, which it sees as part of its territory to be brought back into its fold at some point.
The two sides split after a civil war in 1949, and while Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign nation, it has never formally declared independence.
China has stepped up pressure to isolate Taiwan internationally since Tsai came to power last May, as she has refused to acknowledge its “one China” principle.