Taiwan has long struggled for global recognition, but on Tuesday the leader of one of the world’s smallest countries vowed he will not rest until the island is an “equal member of the family of nations”.
The sparsely populated Marshall Islands, whose president is conducting a five-day visit to Taiwan, is among the self-ruled island’s remaining 14 diplomatic allies that recognise it over China.
Beijing considers democratic Taiwan part of its territory and baulks at any international recognition of the island’s sovereignty.
Since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen — who rejects the “one China” stance — came to power in 2016, Beijing has poached eight of Taipei’s allies and blocked it from major global bodies including the World Health Organisation.
But the “shameful silence” over Taiwan’s status must end, said Marshallese President David Kabua, who arrived in Taipei on Monday.
Welcomed with a military ceremony, Kabua later received a medal from Tsai celebrating their bilateral ties.
“Taiwan is a shining example of a vibrant and peaceful, progressive nation. It is time for Taiwan to take its rightful place as an equal member of the family of nations,” he said in a speech Tuesday.
“It is imperative that we stand firm and united as democratic nations.”
While this week’s trip is Kabua’s first to Taiwan since becoming president of the Pacific archipelago, the two democracies have ties that go back more than 20 years.
“The Marshall Islands will not rest in its advocacy for the Republic of China, Taiwan’s recognition and inclusion,” Kabua said, using the island’s official name.
“Taiwan too must be given every opportunity to be a contributing member of the international community of nations, especially the United Nations.”
Besides the Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru and Tuvalu are Taipei’s remaining allies in the region.
For decades, China and Taiwan have vied for influence, with both sides offering aid and support to small island states in return for recognition.