Mbabane, Swaziland, April 16 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou invited King Mswati III of Swaziland to visit Taiwan this year on the next-to-last day of his stay in the landlocked southern African country.
At a state banquet given in his honor Monday night, Ma invited the king to visit Taiwan again, "so that we'll have another happy chat and see how our health has progressed during the months we have not seen each other."
Ma, a regular jogger who has resorted to sports diplomacy during his African trip, has invited the king to join him for a run and in doing calisthenics since he arrived Sunday in Mbabane, the last stop of a journey that has also taken him to Burkina Faso and The Gambia.
The president said the two countries have established close brotherhood relations, with the king visiting Taiwan 12 times, and he expressed his pleasure at having the chance to make a reciprocal visit.
Ma also prepared a birthday cake and invited all to toast the king, who will celebrate his 44th birthday on April 19.
For his part, the king made three wishes -- for the two countries to maintain good relations, for the two countries to live in peace forever, and for the dreams of the people of the Republic of China and Swaziland to come true.
The king decorated Ma with a medal Sunday, saying it was given to underscore Ma's role in maintaining bilateral ties and in appreciation of his contribution to world peace.
The king said the world was closely watching Ma's contributions, "especially his efforts to engage in cross-strait dialogue, ease hostilities and promote peaceful exchanges with the mainland."
Meanwhile, the president reiterated his recent theme that for cross-strait relations to function well, China could not squeeze Taiwan in the international community.
Ma said he has pushed to gain maneuvering room for Taiwan in the international community over the past four years with some success, even if the opening has not been as wide as was hoped.
Responding to questions on the government's attitude toward diplomatic allies developing relations with China, Ma said the country's stance is clear -- Taiwan will not oppose allies' trade ties with China as long as they do not establish diplomatic ties.
"They have to maintain relations with us. Otherwise, we'll be unable to provide further assistance," Ma said.
(By Lee Shu-hua and Lilian Wu)