Military honors for foreign guests of state
Any reference to a “visit to the Republic of China (Taiwan) by a foreign guest of state” means a formal visit to the ROC by a top-level official of a country that maintains formal diplomatic relations with the ROC. The president attaches great importance to each visit by a foreign guest of state and personally leads a delegation of high-ranking civilian and military officials in welcoming the guest with military honors.
A 21-gun salute commences the military honors in a show of respect to the visiting leader. The firing of the cannons is the highlight of military honors, and is done to enhance ceremonial pomp and express highest regards to the visitor. The salute is carried out by an army artillery company, which employs four sets of 105 mm howitzers. Regulations governing ceremonial shots by the army, navy, and air force require that 21 shots be fired for foreign heads of state, and 19 shots for presidential envoys or vice presidents. Shots are fired at three-second intervals, in synch with salute music played by the military band. The first shot must coincide with the first musical note.
Upon the completion of the cannon salute and music, the band plays the national anthem of each country, with the anthem of the visitor’s nation played first, followed by the ROC national anthem. During the ceremony and throughout the playing of the national anthems, the leaders of the two nations stand at attention with their right hands placed over their hearts. After the anthems, the president will escort his visitor past the band and the honor guard, led by the captain of the honor guard. The makeup of the honor guard, its size, and the rank of its captain vary based on the person receiving the honors. A foreign head of state or a presidential envoy is greeted by a tri-service honor guard comprising a company each from the army, navy (including a platoon of marines), and air force, and the head of the honor guard is a colonel. The honor guard represents the military, and each individual is carefully selected and must undergo strict training and pass many hurdles before being deemed qualified. In addition to offering the highest respect to the visitor, the honor guard demonstrates the fine training and fierce fighting capability of our nation’s armed services. In so doing, it displays the nation’s might, and bolsters troop morale.
After reviewing the troops, the president delivers welcoming remarks, after which the foreign leader speaks. A foreign head of state who is officially visiting the ROC for the first time will receive a key to the city from the mayor. Due to Taiwan’s limited land area, mountainous topography, and traffic conditions, there are very few sites suitable for the conduct of military honors. Most ceremonies are held at the plaza between the National Theater and the National Concert Hall, and the mayor of Taipei presents the key to the city. After that, the director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of Protocol then leads the dignitary’s delegation to a spot in front of the dais, where he introduces each person to the ROC president. The director then leads officials from the ROC and members of foreign diplomatic corps to the dais, where he introduces them to the visiting leader. After that, the ROC president escorts the visiting leader to behind the dais to board a vehicle and leave the premises. The entire military honors ceremony, solemn and grand, takes about 30 minutes and enables the dignitaries to experience a cordial welcome to the ROC.