MAJURO, The Marshall Islands (CNA) – President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Monday was greeted by Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine at the airport on arriving in the Pacific country.

Tsai later received a warm welcome from Heine at a ceremony during which the two heads of state spoke and the national anthems of the countries were played.

Tsai noted that Heine attended her inaugural ceremony last May, and as the Marshall Islands’ first female president and an educator, made a deep impression on her.

Tsai said she was happy to meet with Heine and visit the Marshall Islands, the first stop on her first visit to three of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in the Pacific.

Taiwan and the Marshall Islands have a close friendship and share common ideas such as pursuing democracy, freedom and sustainable development, Tsai said, adding that over the past 20 years, the two countries have promoted cooperative plans in many areas, including education, economics and medical care.

Tsai said she was looking forward to personally seeing the results of such joint ventures and learning about Austronesian culture.

She also expressed her belief that Taiwan and the Marshall Islands can develop closer ties.

In return, noting the two countries share core values such as freedom, democracy, equity and justice, Heine said that the New Southbound Policy proposed by Tsai has helped Taiwan strengthen exchanges with 18 countries in the Asia Pacific region in the fields of culture, education, new energy and new technology.

In conjunction with the New Southbound Policy, Tsai said her government has also introduced Agenda 2020, a policy that highlights 10 challenges facing the country and 10 priority reforms.

Later that day, Tsai and Heine witnessed the signing of memorandums of understanding on the establishment of a fund to finance a presidential scholarship program in the Marshall Islands, and on cooperation in immigration affairs and anti-human trafficking by the two countries’ ministries of foreign affairs.

Taiwan has signed MOUs or pacts on partnership on immigration and the prevention of human trafficking and smuggling with 17 countries, to strengthen international crime prevention, Taiwan’s Presidential Office said in a statement.

Taiwan established diplomatic relations with the Marshall Islands in November 1998 and the two countries have forged cooperative ties in the development of renewable energy, farming, fisheries, horticulture and animal husbandry.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Taipei Medical University Shuang Ho Hospital has established a Taiwan Health Center in the country. 

By Lu Hsin-hui and Evelyn Kao