Taipei, Oct. 21 (CNA) Visiting Guatemalan President-elect Alejandro Eduardo Giammattei on Monday said his country will continue to stand with Taiwan by deepening relations between the two diplomatic allies.
Speaking at a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) at the Presidential Office, Giammattei, who was elected in August and will assume office in January, expressed his gratitude for Taiwan's assistance to his country in various fields over the years.
He also thanked Taiwan for its close cooperation with his country's former and newly posted ambassadors to Taipei, and said he believed the two countries' ties will reach new heights in the 80-plus years of bilateral diplomatic relations.
The two countries established formal ties in 1935 when the Republic of China (now Taiwan's formal name) was still based in mainland China.
Giammattei said he chose to visit Taiwan before being officially sworn-in next year as a "concrete message to the world" that "we will stand with Taiwan," and the two countries will work hand-in-hand to become even closer allies.
He also invited Tsai to his inaugural ceremony to be held in Jan. 14, pledging that Guatemala will be Taiwan's strongest ally in Central America.
Four of Taiwan's 15 diplomatic allies are in Central America and include Belize, Nicaragua and Honduras in addition to Guatemala.
Two Central American countries -- Panama (in June 2017) and El Salvador (in August 2018) -- have severed ties with Taiwan since Tsai became president in May 2016.
Tsai welcomed Giammattei and his delegation to Taiwan and said Giammattei's visit to Taiwan only two months after his electoral victory showed how much he cherishes bilateral relations.
She noted that Giammattei's father has also been a longtime friend of Taiwan.
Alejandro Giammattei Caceres, who served as president of the Guatemalan Olympic Committee from 1973-1981, helped Taiwan keep its Olympic membership in the late 70s and early 80s and was honored by Taiwan's government for his contributions, according to Tsai.
The Guatemalan president-elect and his delegation, featuring key members of his future cabinet, arrived in Taiwan on Sunday for a five-day visit.
The visit comes just a month after Taiwan lost two diplomatic allies in the Pacific, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati, to China, leaving the country with only 15 allies worldwide.
Among the 15, nine of them are located in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Taiwan's national security authorities have warned that Beijing might try to steal one or two more of Taipei's remaining allies before its presidential and legislative elections in January 2020.