President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is slated to visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, today — a visit of political significance, as it would be the first time a president from Taiwan has entered a US federal building in their official capacity after US President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act in March.
The Taiwan Travel Act allows high-level US officials to visit Taiwan and vice versa, breaking from previous US policy that did not permit bilateral visits by Cabinet-level ministers, but allowed Taiwanese presidents to transit through US cities en route to other countries.
Tsai arrived in Los Angeles on Sunday last week en route to Paraguay and Belize, two of Taiwan’s 18 diplomatic allies. On her return trip, she arrived in Houston yesterday for a 27-hour transit.
The president is to return to Taiwan late tomorrow.
Speaking to reporters accompanying her on the trip, Tsai on Friday said that Washington followed its four principles of providing travelers “safety, comfort, convenience and dignity,” as it has done in the past.
“I am grateful to the US for arranging the stopovers,” Tsai said.
When Tsai was in Los Angeles, she visited the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office’s Culture Center, making her the first Taiwanese president to visit one of the country’s representative offices in the US.
She also gave a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, her first public address in the US since she became president.
Earlier on Friday when speaking at the Belizean National Assembly, Tsai promised to strengthen cooperation with the Central American country in various fields, including education, economy, agriculture and infrastructure.
In her address, Tsai said that Taiwan would increase its number of scholarship students from Belize and would invite young Belizeans to join short-term vocational training programs in Taiwan.
The country would also work with Belize’s Institute for Technical, Vocational and Educational Training to improve the quality of vocational education in Belize to better prepare young people for the job market, Tsai said.
In terms of the economy, she said she would continue to encourage delegations from Taiwan’s business sector to visit Belize and develop further trade relationships with the cocoa and coffee industries there.
Bilateral ties between Taiwan and Belize would also be enhanced via Taiwan’s Official Development Assistance program, which would assist Belize in improving its infrastructure, including the construction of new roads and hospitals, Tsai said.
Taiwan’s longstanding friendship with Belize is also manifested by its dedication to helping its ally provide medical care and restore its cultural heritage, Tsai said.
“The friendship between Taiwan and Belize is not built on empty promises or the political whims of our leadership. This is a friendship that, for the past 29 years, has led to results; results that have benefited people from both countries,” Tsai said.
Additional reporting by Su Yung-yao
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