President welcomes Solomon Islands PM on first visit to Taiwan

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Monday greeted Solomon Islands Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela with a military salute in front of the Presidential Office. (Photo courtesy of CNA, 2018.5.21)

Taipei, May 21 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Monday greeted Solomon Islands Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela with a military salute in front of the Presidential Office.

Houenipwela, who was sworn in as prime minister in November, arrived Sunday for his first official visit to Taiwan which is scheduled to last until Friday.

Tsai also expressed gratitude to the Solomon Islands for its plan to speak up for Taiwan at an ongoing World Health Assembly (WHA) conference.

Tsai said that since Houenipwela took office, his country and Taiwan have jointly promoted a wide range of cooperative initiatives, including medical professional training, establishing weather forecasting systems and improving literacy learning, which demonstrates the solid friendship between the two countries.

Tsai also noted that the health minister of the Solomon Islands is expected to speak along with Taiwan’s other international friends in support of Taiwan’s participation at the annual meeting of the WHA, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, during the opening of this year’s WHA meeting on Monday.

She wanted to take this opportunity to express her gratitude to the Solomon Islands for speaking up on behalf of Taiwan, Tsai said.

Photo courtesy of CNA, 2018.5.21

Taiwan has the ability and the willingness to make contributions to the improvement of international health and medical services, Tsai said, adding that the people of Taiwan should not be kept outside the global network for preventing the spread of infectious diseases. “The world needs Taiwan, while Taiwan needs the world as well,” she said.

Tsai said Taiwan and the Solomon Islands are both maritime countries and should continue to expand and strengthen their reciprocal and mutually beneficial cooperation.

Meanwhile, Houenipwela said that his visit is especially important and meaningful because it is his first visit to Taiwan as prime minister and he is looking forward to learning more about this great nation and its people, history, culture and economic development.

Houenipwela also expressed an interest in the development of Taiwan’s democracy, Constitution and political systems, adding that Taiwan is deemed by many countries around the world as a prosperously developed democratic country.

Taiwan did not receive an invitation to this year’s WHA meeting being held from May 21-26 in Geneva.

Taiwan first sought an invitation to the WHA in 1997, and was invited to attend as an observer in 2009, under a Kuomintang administration that was friendly to Beijing.

The nation thereafter attended the WHA every year from 2009-2016, but since the Democratic Progressive Party administration took office in May, 2016, which is less friendly to China, Beijing has blocked WHA invitations to Taiwan in 2017 and 2018.

(By Lu Hsin-hui and Evelyn Kao)