By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ANKARA (AA) – The president of Palau reached Taiwan on a five-day working visit accompanied by the US ambassador to Koror.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu received President Surangel Whipps Jr and his delegation at the Taoyuan International Airport.
“We're honored to host our true friends and partners in prosperity for the 5-day working visit culminating in the launch of the Taiwan-Palau travel bubble,” the Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.
Whipps assumed the position of the president last January and this is his first overseas trip.
Palau, one of the 15 nations with which Taiwan has diplomatic relations, is an archipelago of over 500 islands in the western Pacific Ocean and is home to just over 18,000 people. It is one of the few nations with almost no cases of the COVID-19 while Taiwan is one of the least affected territories by the pandemic with 1,022 cases and 10 fatalities.
The two sides started the “travel bubble” allowing people to travel between the two lands with fewer entry restrictions currently imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The visiting Palau delegation is accompanied by US Ambassador John Hennessey-Niland.
According to Taiwanese government-run Central News Agency, this is the first time since 1979 that any US ambassador has visited Taiwan.
China claims Taiwan is a breakaway province, while Taipei insists on its independence since 1949.
US formally recognized China and under “Three Communiques” and shifted diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing, acknowledging the One China Policy and thus including Taiwan as part of mainland China.
However, under former Donald Trump administration, there has been intense bilateral communication between Washington and Taipei with the two sides resuming bilateral army training for the first time since 1979.
Also, US sold arms and other defense equipment to Taiwan for over $5 billion last year and has bilateral deals of nearly $8 billion.