Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) yesterday arrived in Palau to attend Palauan president-elect Surangel Whipps’ inauguration today.
He was accompanied by tourism operators to evaluate possible itineraries if a “travel bubble” is created amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wu traveled to Palau as a special envoy for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), and is to depart tomorrow, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Tsai on Tuesday last week talked with Whipps via videoconference, congratulating him on his election and expressing her regret at not being able to visit in person.
Among Taiwan’s 15 remaining diplomatic allies, Palau is one of four in the Pacific.
Wu was received at the airport by Palauan Minister of State Faustina Rehuher-Marugg, and later met with Palauan President Tommy Remengesau and other dignitaries, the ministry said.
Wu is to attend Whipps’ inauguration ceremony this morning, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Ngaraard for a community building, which Taiwan helped build, in the afternoon, it said.
Traveling with Wu are Taiwanese tourism operators who are to visit the Rock Islands, a popular attraction in Palau, to evaluate new tour itineraries, as the two countries are considering a travel bubble, the ministry said.
The travel bubble plan was brought up by Remengesau during a speech he recorded for the UN General Assembly in September last year, when he supported Taiwan’s bid to join the World Health Assembly.
He said that Palau and Taiwan were mulling a “bubble economy.”
While both governments continued discussions for a while, the plan was dissolved reportedly because Palau became less sure about reopening its borders due to its limited medical capacity.
As of yesterday, Palau remained free of COVID-19, while Taiwan has reported 870 cases.
During an interview with the Guardian that was published on Monday, Whipps reaffirmed Palau’s allegiance to Taiwan and the US, despite China’s ban on tourists visiting Palau since 2018.
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