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President Tsai departs on journey to diplomatic allies Panama and Paraguay
President Tsai departs on journey to diplomatic allies Panama and Paraguay

President Tsai Ing-wen departed Taiwan on the morning of June 24 to travel to diplomatic allies Panama and Paraguay. In remarks issued before boarding the aircraft, the president said she brings with her the strong desire of the people of Taiwan to be more active in the international community, and will set off on a trip of "steadfast diplomacy based on building mutually beneficial relationships." The government's determination to advance Taiwan's diplomacy will be evident for all citizens to see, she said.

The following is a translation of the president's remarks:

We are undertaking this overseas trip at the invitation of Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela, to attend the inauguration ceremony for the Panama Canal Expansion. After finishing our itinerary in Panama we will continue on to visit Paraguay, another important diplomatic ally.

First, I want to specially thank the China Airlines crew members, especially the flight crew, who will be accompanying us throughout the trip. I know you're all under a lot of pressure, because on the one hand you feel concerned for your co-workers fighting for rights back here in Taiwan, even as you are called upon to do your part to support Taiwan's diplomatic work and win for it greater international space.

To see you in this difficult position leaves me with a heavy heart. If conditions hadn't become intolerable, no flight crew would choose to go on strike. Premier Lin Chuan (林全) has issued a three-point statement on the matter, and I want to repeat here that the new government's mission is to safeguard the rights and interests of flight crews, re-organize China Airlines, and restore the company's image.

I keep emphasizing that the new administration is here to solve problems. We will take everyone's demands seriously, and will roll up our sleeves to solve problems. While I'm traveling overseas, I will continue paying close attention to your colleagues' situation, and will urge administration officials and the new China Airlines management to do everything possible to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion.

Next, I would like to thank our colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) for their hard work. I may be the head of this delegation, but I'm fully aware that if not for the painstaking work performed day in and day out by our diplomats on the front lines, the arrangements for this trip could not have been taken care of in such a short time. Your country is proud of each and every one of you!

In addition to our MOFA colleagues, I also want to take this opportunity to thank our overseas expatriates, Taiwanese businesses, and NGO workers who have put in long years to provide international humanitarian aid and take part in technical cooperation projects. Your hard work is emblematic of the industrious, no-quit spirit of the Taiwanese people, and shows the world the beauty and kindness of our people.

As president, my most important responsibilities are cross-strait affairs, national defense, and diplomacy. Since taking office on May 20, I've approached these three tasks with a tremendous sense of mission.

Today marks the first time for me, acting as president of the Republic of China, to lead a delegation on a visit to diplomatic allies. In embarking upon this trip, I carry with me the fervent wish of the Taiwanese people to be more active in the international community. We will demonstrate once more to the world that the people of Taiwan are willing to contribute to the international community. At the same time, this trip will show our citizens that the new administration is determined to advance Taiwan's diplomacy. There may be limits to Taiwan's room for diplomatic maneuver, but our will to connect with the world knows no bounds.

Therefore, I've given myself three missions to accomplish during this trip to Panama and Paraguay:

First, I will do all I can to achieve a higher international profile for Taiwan.

The Panama Canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and is one of the most important transport arteries in the world. Taiwanese ships and cargo often need to pass through the Panama Canal. The canal's expansion will mean a big increase in efficiency and shipping volume, and will even change the global shipping industry.

The world is poised for change. It gives me great pride that Taiwan will be a part of it, and I am confident that my fellow citizens share in that pride.

During this trip, in addition to meeting with the heads of state of Panama and Paraguay, I will also have opportunities to converse with the leaders of other diplomatic allies. I will tell them about Taiwan, and will show them that Taiwan is a friend worth cultivating.

Second, I intend to instill confidence in all the expatriates, Taiwanese businesses, MOFA colleagues, and NGO personnel who are out there working on the front lines of diplomacy.

The ideal of "bringing Taiwan closer to the world, and the world closer to Taiwan" is coming true thanks to your efforts. I want each of you to know that solidarity is the most important aspect of diplomatic work. The government will not leave you to struggle away in isolation. We will consolidate resources and push ahead with diplomatic work together.

And the third mission I've given myself is to strengthen economic and trade cooperation between Taiwan and the countries of Latin America, a region that is brimming with vitality and market potential. Leaders from the business community who are coming along on this trip are ready to act on these opportunities.

However, this is not a conventional trade mission. We hope to establish a mutually beneficial basis for economic and trade relations with the countries of Latin America, so that we can all work together to enlarge the pie and embark together upon international markets. For example, Taiwan has used its orchid growing technology to help Panama restore its national flower, the Holy Ghost Orchid. Large-scale cultivation of the moth orchid has also begun there and achieved good results.

Taiwan has also helped Paraguay get involved in the orchid business. One purpose of this visit to the two countries is to ensure that current technical and business cooperation projects will continue forward.

"Steadfast diplomacy" represents new thinking for this government's conduct of foreign affairs. To be "steadfast" is to be unwavering and firm in purpose, and work diligently and pragmatically toward achieving our goals.

The conduct of foreign affairs should not obsess over grandiose schemes and far-off dreams; whatever helps us work with other countries to our mutual benefits, we ought to get to it. The making of friends should not be limited to official diplomatic ties; whoever upholds similar values and acts with sincerity is a friend of Taiwan, diplomatic ally or not. This is the meaning of "steadfast diplomacy."

The MOFA has codenamed this trip "Ing-Hsiang Project" ("Hsiang" means to take flight in Mandarin Chinese). However, I want to stress that it's not just Tsai Ing-wen taking flight. It is the collective will of the Taiwanese people that will be taking flight.

I depart with high hopes, and intend to return home with much to show.

This trip of steadfast diplomacy and mutually beneficial relationships is about to get started. Once again, thank you all for seeing us off this morning, and thank you all for your kind wishes. I'm really looking forward to the next few days. Awaiting Taiwan are mutual assistance and reciprocal benefits, cooperation and sharing, a new diplomacy, and a new world. Together we will move forward, and together we take flight.

Thank you, everyone!

Among those at the airport to see President Tsai and the delegation off were Secretary-General to the President Lin Bih-jaw (林碧炤), National Security Council Deputy Secretary-General Chen Chun-lin (陳俊麟), Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Wu Chih-chung (吳志中), Overseas Community Affairs Council Vice Minister Roy Yuan-Rong Leu (呂元榮), Republic of Nauru Ambassador to the ROC Ludwig Dowong Keke, and First Secretary Estanislao Lezcano of the Embassy of Paraguay.

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