President Tsai Ing-wen met on the afternoon of May 22 with Archbishop Joseph Chennoth (Apostolic Nuncio to Japan), Haiti Minister of Foreign Affairs Pierrot Delienne, St. Lucia Minister for Education, Human Resource Development and Labor Robert Lewis, Belizean Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega and his wife, and Honduran Supreme Court President Rolando Edgardo Argueta Perez. In addition to welcoming her guests to participate in the inaugural activities for Taiwan's 14th-term president and vice president, President Tsai thanked them for their longstanding support for Taiwan's participation in international affairs.
During her meeting with Apostolic Nuncio to Japan Archbishop Chennoth, the president remarked that Taiwan-Vatican diplomatic ties have a long history, and are about to enter their 74th year. Recent years have seen frequent reciprocal visits involving high-level officials, she said, as well as the continued expansion of the depth and breadth of cooperation and exchanges. In the sphere of academics and culture, an Agreement on Collaboration in the Field of Higher Education and on the Recognition of Studies, Qualifications, Diplomas and Degrees was signed in 2011. This was the first bilateral pact signed between the two parties since diplomatic ties were established, and opens the door to greater academic exchanges while strengthening bilateral relations.
President Tsai noted that after receiving special permission from the Pope and the Vatican's Secretariat of State, the Vatican's own Sistine Chapel Choir performed in Taiwan in 2014, receiving rave reviews. Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs also helped the National Palace Museum and the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff collaborate on an exhibition between February and May of this year entitled Treasures from Heaven—A Special Exhibition of Artifacts from the Holy See. The Vatican loaned out 60 treasures for this exhibition in Taiwan – the first-ever large-scale exhibition of papal artifacts overseas, and an event of profound significance for Taiwan.
The president then said that Taiwan and the Vatican have long collaborated on numerous humanitarian aid projects, actively responding to the Pope's call for compassion, and providing assistance to victims of unfortunate events around the world. Recent examples include assistance provided to refugees in northern Iraq, victims of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and earthquake victims in Nepal, Ecuador and Japan, with Taiwan faithfully fulfilling its responsibilities as a member of the international community.
President Tsai noted that "Overcome Indifference and Win Peace" was the theme of the Pope's 2016 World Day of Peace message, issued on January 1 of this year. That message calls on people around the world to build a culture of solidarity, mercy, and compassion to combat global selfishness, resignation, and indifference. The president said that Taiwan, as a member of the international community, is a staunch supporter of democracy, freedom, and humanitarian values, and will continue to respond to papal calls to care for the impoverished and vulnerable, and to combat injustice.
In her meeting with Haiti Minister of Foreign Affairs Delienne, President Tsai remarked that current President of Haiti Jocelerme Privert originally planned to personally lead the delegation to Taiwan, but needed to be in Haiti on May 18 to preside over Flag Day festivities. He therefore appointed Minister Delienne and Haiti's First Lady Ginette Michaud Privert to lead the delegation and convey his congratulations, for which President Tsai expressed her sincere thanks.
President Tsai noted that Haiti and Taiwan established diplomatic relations six decades ago in 1956. For the past 60 years, the two countries have enjoyed a sincere and friendly alliance, continuously enhancing bilateral cooperation in many areas including infrastructure, agriculture, health and medical care, and education. When Haiti suffered a severe earthquake in 2010, Taiwan launched into participation in disaster rescue and reconstruction work. The unified reconstruction efforts of the Haitian people have yielded visible results, said the president, and within its capabilities, the Taiwan government stands ready to continue cooperation with the Haitian government to promote reconstruction and national development projects that the government has prioritized.
President Tsai then mentioned that Haiti's general election in 2015 took some unexpected turns that led to the current transitional state of affairs. But President Privert, undeterred by these difficulties, has taken on the heavy responsibility of stabilizing the country and getting the election process back on track, and for this he deserves gratitude and admiration. President Tsai also said that Taiwan's path to democracy has not always been smooth sailing, and the multiparty politics and transfer of political power between parties that we see today are the product of long-term sacrifices and contributions by many individuals. She hopes the wise leadership and consolidation efforts of President Privert will create a peaceful and stable environment to facilitate election arrangements, and offered best wishes for a smooth and successful general election in Haiti.
Meeting with St. Lucia's Education, Human Resource Development and Labor Minister Lewis, President Tsai noted that St. Lucia and Taiwan are both democratic countries that have undergone peaceful transfers of political power that worked to consolidate our democracy.
The president went on to say that St. Lucia has always emphasized education and is internationally renowned for producing two Nobel laureates. She learned that Minister Lewis and Cabinet Secretary Darrell Marcus Montrope's wife have both taught at the university level and that, as an educator, Minister Lewis has cultivated many talented individuals. During this current trip the minister has also found time in his busy schedule to meet with students from St. Lucia currently studying here. President Tsai then expressed hope that Taiwan and St. Lucia will continue bilateral academic exchanges to benefit more students and strengthen our friendly alliance.
President Tsai then expressed her gratitude to St. Lucia for their long-term and outspoken support in international organizations for Taiwan's participation in the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The president emphasized that as a member of the international community, Taiwan will continue to maintain regional peace and fulfill our promises to the international community and our allies.
At her meeting with Belizean Deputy Prime Minister Vega, President Tsai said that since establishing diplomatic ties in 1989, Taiwan and Belize have maintained a stable, friendly alliance. Close bilateral cooperation in the fields of politics, economics, culture, academic exchanges, information technology, health and medical care, security, tourism, and manpower development have led to many concrete achievements that have benefitted the people of both countries. The president then offered high praise for the cooperative accomplishments of Taiwan and Belize over more than two decades, and expressed hope that both sides will continue to build on the existing foundation to strengthen their cooperative relationship.
President Tsai also mentioned that in November of last year the United Democratic Party (UDP), led by Prime Minister Dean Oliver Barrow, once again won the National Assembly general election, marking the first time in Belize history that a governing party has won three successive terms of office. Deputy Prime Minister Vega is also again serving concurrently as Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, Environment and Sustainable Development. The president therefore took this opportunity to offer her sincere congratulations.
President Tsai then said that under Prime Minister Barrow's leadership, various reforms that have been actively promoted over the past eight years have filled Belize with dynamism and vitality. Looking to the future, the president expressed hope that both Taiwan and Belize will continue to strengthen cooperation and deepen their bilateral friendship to benefit the people of both countries.
Later on at her meeting with Honduran Supreme Court President Argueta, President Tsai noted that Taiwan and Honduras have had diplomatic relations for 74 years. Both countries uphold as their founding principle the pursuit of freedom and democracy, and cooperate closely to produce mutual benefit and a win-win situation. She reaffirmed that Belize is an important Taiwan ally.
President Tsai also stated that since President Juan Orlando Hernandez took office in January of 2014, he has led the government and people of Honduras to work hand-in-hand on national construction. This has raised the country's international status and produced a range of self-evident accomplishments, winning widespread acclaim as well as President Tsai's respect and admiration. Looking to the future, she expressed hope that the existing firm friendship between the two countries will serve as the foundation for continued promotion of cooperative projects that benefit people in both countries. President Tsai stated that by sharing and learning from each other's developmental successes, Taiwan and Honduras can develop an even closer cooperative partnership. She also looks forward to Honduras' continued support for expanding Taiwan's international participation, as we work together to maximize economic prosperity and people's wellbeing.