Taiwan president reviews troops ahead of US visit after Honduras setback

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Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen paid a visit to the army engineers on Saturday and reviewed their training ahead of a trip next week to the US and Central America.

Ms Tsai will commence her high-profile trip to the Americas on Wednesday. She is expected to meet US House speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles.

Her upcoming travels have been criticised by China, with Beijing condemning Washington for allowing Ms Tsai to visit the country. However, her visit to the US is technically only a transit.

Taipei has been pushing to bolster diplomatic ties with like-minded democracies in the face of China's growing aggression, as Beijing considers the island to be a part of its national territory, even though Taiwan has been self-ruled since it split from the mainland in 1949.

Over the last year, Beijing has beefed up its military activities around the island, including flying a record number of warplanes into its airspace.

Beijing strongly reacted to former US House speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit last year by conducting military exercises around the island nation, which renewed the fear of war.

The Taiwanese president visited an army base in Chiayi in southern Taiwan, reviewed their training, and watched as the soldiers erected anti-tank barriers and practised martial arts.

“Protecting Taiwan and defending democracy has always been our military’s great mission,” Ms Tsai told the soldiers, accompanied by Taiwan’s defence minister Chiu Kuo-cheng and national security council secretary-general, Wellington Koo.

“I believe that only by continuously training and strengthening the military’s war preparedness can we be even more able to protect our home and defend our country,” she added.

Her visit takes place just days after Honduras, one of the only 14 countries to formally recognise Taiwan, said it will forge ties with Beijing.

Meanwhile, the de facto US embassy in Taipei on Saturday warned Honduras that China often makes promises in exchange for recognition that remain unfulfilled.

The Honduran foreign minister travelled to China this week to open relations.

The American Institute in Taiwan said that while Honduras’s possible severing of ties with Taipei in favour of Beijing was a sovereign decision, China does not always follow through on its promises.

“It is important to note the PRC [People’s Republic of China] often makes promises in exchange for diplomatic recognition that ultimately remain unfulfilled,” a spokesperson said.

“Regardless of Honduras’ decision, the United States will continue to deepen and expand our engagement with Taiwan in line with our longstanding One China policy,” the spokesperson added.