Taiwan welcomes Czech delegation after Honduras shifts allegiance to China
TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, seeking closer ties with Western democracies in the face of Chinese pressure, welcomed a large Czech delegation to the island on Monday, a boost for Taipei after once-loyal ally Honduras switched allegiance to Beijing.
Although the number of countries that retain formal diplomatic ties with Chinese-claimed Taiwan has dwindled to just 13 after the move by Honduras on Sunday, U.S. allies such as the Czech Republic have been bolstering support for the democratic island even as they also only officially recognise China.
The roughly 150-person Czech delegation arrived in Taipei on Saturday, led by the speaker of the lower chamber of the Czech parliament, Marketa Pekarova Adamova.
Tsai, meeting Pekarova Adamova at the presidential office, noted she had come to Taiwan despite "great pressure", in a veiled reference to Chinese criticism of her visit.
"Taiwan and the Czech Republic have both been through authoritarian rule and deeply understand that democracy has not come easily, so we can become firm partners with each other on the road of upholding democracy and freedom," she said.
Pekarova Adamova told Tsai the Czech Republic and Taiwan are strong partners.
"We believe in the same values and principles, among them the most important are freedom, democracy and protection of human rights. Nobody can threaten us from adhering to these rights," she said.
Speaking earlier to reporters after a Taiwan-Czech business forum, Economy Minister Wang Mei-hua said that the timing of the Honduras announcement and the Czech delegation's arrival were two different things, but that the Czech visit was important.
"This visit of the delegation to Taiwan certainly represents that Taiwan is in a democratic alliance," she said.
Newly elected Czech president Petr Pavel drew a sharp rebuke from Beijing in January after taking a call from Tsai, a clear shift from his predecessor's attempts to win Chinese business.
Pekarova Adamova's trip to Taiwan follows one by Senate speaker Milos Vystrcil in 2020.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Jason Hovet in Prague; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Gerry Doyle)