“Taiwan will not stop its steps to embrace the world,” she said at the airport before leaving for the island’s last African ally on Tuesday.
“We will continue to move forward more firmly and confidently so that the world can see Taiwan as a steady force for good,” Tsai said.
Taiwan has long faced diplomatic and military pressure from Beijing, which views the island as its territory to be taken under its control, by force if necessary. Beijing has repeatedly warned other countries against having official contact with Taipei.
The United States, like most countries, does not recognise Taiwan as an independent state but is opposed to any unilateral change of the cross-strait status quo by force.
Beijing has also stepped up military pressure against Taiwan by staging war games around the island in the past year, sending warplanes and warships to cross the de facto median line separating the island and the mainland in the Taiwan Strait.
Calling eSwatini a “familiar old friend”, Tsai said she had two goals for her brief visit: celebrating the “friendship of the two allies” and “continuing to promote sustainable cooperation”.
Tsai said the African kingdom had for decades spoken up for Taiwan in various international venues against the expansion of authoritarianism and global challenges.
Tsai said the country’s “unwavering support for Taiwan” had given the island the “confidence and strength to continue contributing to the world”. She added that the two sides would continue to work hard, promote progress and development and face challenges together in the post-pandemic recovery.
Tsai is visiting eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland, for the 55th anniversary of the country’s independence. The trip will also mark 55 years of bilateral relations.
Tsai, whose term as president will expire in May 2024, will travel to eSwatini directly with no plans to make transit stops in the United States as she had done on recent visits to Latin America. Beijing saw the stopovers as a breach of Washington’s one-China policy and a violation of its sovereignty.
Alpheous Nxumalo, a spokesman for the eSwatini government, said on Monday he did not expect “friction” with Beijing over Tsai’s visit.
“Will this not anger China? We don’t think so,” Nxumalo told Voice of America, adding that it was not the first time the island’s leader had visited eSwatini, and the kingdom had “never had any issues”.
The island’s foreign ministry has steered clear of any attempt to compete with Xi’s visit to the region, saying Tsai’s trip was long planned and the timing was just a coincidence.