Taipei, Aug. 8 (CNA) Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), one of Taiwan's diplomatic allies in the Caribbean, formally opened an embassy in Taipei on Thursday, signifying the strengthening of relations between the two countries amid difficulties faced by Taipei in the international political arena.
The embassy of Saint Vincent, located in the Diplomatic Quarter in Shilin District of Taipei, was opened by Saint Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves at a ceremony attended by Taiwan's Vice President Chen Chien-Jen (陳建仁), Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) and other dignitaries.
This is the country's fifth embassy overseas, the other four being located in Washington D.C., Havana, Caracas and Brussels. Gonsalves announced the establishment of an embassy in Taipei shortly before President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) visited the Caribbean state in July.
At present, about 130 Vincentians live in Taiwan, mostly students; on the other hand, Taiwanese in Saint Vincent are predominantly diplomats and members of technical missions.
Officials from both governments lauded the establishment of the Saint Vincent embassy in Taipei.
"I believe bilateral relations between the two countries will be deepened and Vincentians in Taiwan will be taken better care of," Chen said during his remarks, after expressing appreciation of Kingstown's efforts to "overcome difficulties" in opening an embassy in Taiwan.
"The establishment of an embassy in Taipei by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a manifestation of the process of maturation of the excellent relations which exist between the Republic of China Taiwan and SVG," Gonsalves said.
Andrea Bowman, a career educator and president of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Autism Society, is the first ambassador to Taiwan while Elroy Wilson, also an educator and a foreign service officer, is her deputy.
"The establishment of this embassy is a tangible indication of the commitment and trust shared by our nations," Bowman said, describing the embassy as "a new home in a space where it feels a sense of belonging."
"One does not establish a home if one intends to move on the following year," she added, reaffirming Taiwan-Saint Vincent relations.
Taipei and Kingstown established diplomatic relations in August 1981. Over the years, the two countries have maintained close cooperation in economics, agriculture, health and medicine, infrastructure and education. Kingstown has also supported Taiwan's bid for international participation by speaking out at different venues.
However, the opening of an SVG embassy in Taiwan is considered long overdue by some, as Taipei's embassy in Kingstown was opened in 1983.
"It has been long planned," Gonsalves told CNA on the sideline of the event, adding that the plan was delayed several times "due to circumstances," citing his country's efforts to vie for a seat on the 10-member United Nations Security Council for a two year stint as a non-permanent member, which it secured in June.
Prior to the establishment of its embassy in Taipei, Kingstown handled bilateral affairs and took care of its nationals in Taiwan through an honorary consul and sometimes with the help of Saint Kitts and Nevis' mission in Taiwan.
The responsibilities were later assumed by Peggy Carr, a Vincentian resident in Taiwan, whose efforts were recognized by Gonsalves on Thursday.
The new embassy comes at a time when Beijing is stepping up its suppression of Taiwan's participation in international events. Since Tsai took office in 2016, five diplomatic allies -- Sao Tome and Principe, Panama, Dominican Republic, Burkina Faso and El Salvador -- have severed diplomatic tie with Taipei and switched to Beijing.
Currently, the new leadership of the Solomon Islands, one of Taiwan's six Pacific allies, is reportedly re-evaluating relations after winning a general election in April.