On the evening of March 26 local time (afternoon of March 26 Taipei time), President Tsai Ing-wen attended a state banquet hosted by President Hilda Heine of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. At the banquet, she expressed hope that by fostering linkages across the Pacific, Taiwan and the Marshall Islands can make profound contributions to the world.
In remarks, President Tsai stated that she and her friend President Heine, as the first-ever female leaders of their respective nations, are well aware of the challenges that women face when participating in public affairs. She added that during her visit to the Marshall Islands two years ago, she and President Heine agreed that a regional forum of women leaders should be held to promote exchanges and cooperation on gender equality.
President Tsai said she was delighted that this idea has come to fruition, and noted that during the Pacific Women Leaders' Coalition Conference earlier that day, representatives from different countries initiated a very meaningful dialogue.
President Tsai said this brings to mind an observation made by the Oceanic philosopher Epeli Hau'ofa, who once stated that from the perspective of continental land, we are sometimes viewed as "islands in a far sea," but from the perspective of the ocean, our countries constitute "a sea of islands."
President Tsai stated that we are not small and insignificant. On the contrary, by fostering linkages across the Pacific, together we can make profound contributions to the world, and that day's multilateral conference on gender equality was an excellent example.
By the same token, said the president, if even more Pacific countries join hands on issues such as global warming and marine conservation, we can bring about even greater change. After all, she said, the Pacific is the largest ocean in the world.
President Tsai emphasized that Taiwan is ready and willing to work in concert with the Marshall Islands, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Palau, and other like-minded nations to achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The president pointed out that although Taiwan is not an official member of the United Nations, we are every bit as committed as any UN Member State to the implementation of the SDGs.
President Tsai thanked President Heine and many other good friends for consistently supporting Taiwan's reasonable bid for international participation. They support Taiwan not only because of their friendship with our country, she said, but also out of a sense of justice.
If Taiwan is accorded more opportunities, said the president, it will share its experience in implementing the SDGs, and can offer the rest of the world many different options. Taiwan can help, she said, but Taiwan also needs your support.
In closing, President Tsai invited everyone to join her in a toast to sustainable development worldwide, to a vibrant and beautiful Pacific, and to the robust diplomatic partnership and enduring friendship between Taiwan and the Marshall Islands.
President Heine, meanwhile, in earlier remarks heartily welcomed President Tsai and her delegation to the Marshall Islands, and said it was an honor to host them. She also said she hopes to take advantage of the Pacific Women Leaders' Coalition Conference to continue developing macroeconomic policies and working toward environmental policies based on the principles of fairness and inclusivity. President Heine further mentioned that the Marshall Islands will work in concert with the Pacific Women Leaders' Coalition Conference to support women in the Pacific region, fully liberate their potential, and enable cooperative partners to engage in discussions with other parties aimed at spurring fair and inclusive development.
Among those attending the event from the Marshall Islands were President Heine's husband Thomas Kijiner, Jr., Parliament Speaker Kenneth A. Kedi, Minister of Culture and Internal Affairs Amenta Matthew, several cabinet members, traditional leaders, women leaders, Marshall Islands Ambassador to the ROC (Taiwan) Neijon R. Edwards, US Ambassador to the Marshall Islands Karen Stewart, and George Fraser, Australian Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands. Representing Taiwan were Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), National Security Council Deputy Secretary-General Tsai Ming-yen (蔡明彥), other delegation members, and Ambassador to the Marshall Islands Jeffrey S.C. Hsiao (蕭勝中).