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President Tsai confers decoration on Marshall Islands President Kabua, hosts state banquet

TAIWAN, March 22 - President Tsai confers decoration on Marshall Islands President Kabua, hosts state banquet

President Tsai confers decoration on Marshall Islands President Kabua, hosts state banquet

Following a welcome ceremony with military honors and bilateral talks, President Tsai Ing-wen, accompanied by Vice President Lai Ching-te, conferred a decoration upon President of the Marshall Islands David Kabua and hosted a state luncheon in honor of President and First Lady Kabua at the Presidential Office on March 22. In remarks at the event, President Tsai thanked President Kabua for his tremendous efforts to advance the friendship between Taiwan and the Marshall Islands, and for his unwavering support for Taiwan's international participation. President Tsai also expressed hope that our two countries will continue to support each other in the international community and cooperate closely on national development.

During the decoration ceremony, President Tsai personally conferred the Order of Brilliant Jade with Grand Cordon upon President Kabua, and then delivered remarks, a translation of which follows:

The Marshall Islands was the first diplomatic ally in the Pacific that I visited after taking office more than five years ago. In fact, I have visited twice. I recall that my second visit took place in March three years ago. Today, I am very pleased to receive our dear friends from the Marshall Islands at just the same time of year. A very warm welcome to all of you.

I have just conferred upon President Kabua the Order of Brilliant Jade with Grand Cordon. I presented this honor on behalf of the people of Taiwan to thank President Kabua for his tremendous efforts in advancing the diplomatic friendship between our countries, and for his unwavering support for Taiwan's international participation.

Indeed, at last year's United Nations General Assembly, President Kabua publicly urged the United Nations to put an end to its "shameful silence" in excluding Taiwan. Both I and the people of Taiwan were deeply grateful for these righteous words. We look forward to continued mutual support in the international community and to close cooperation on matters of national development.

During my two visits to the Marshall Islands, I promoted bilateral cooperation in such areas as education and women's empowerment. Under the leadership of President Kabua, at the beginning of this year our governments launched the Women Business Start-up Small Loan Revolving Fund, further advancing bilateral endeavors.

We believe that, through diverse exchanges and interactions, Taiwan and the Marshall Islands will open up even more areas for cooperation, and jointly serve as a key stabilizing force throughout the Pacific region. In closing, I wish our nations everlasting friendship as we strive to foster prosperity and development together. Thank you!

President Kabua then delivered remarks, a transcript of which follows:

Allow me to convey warm greetings in Marshallese: "Iakwe," which basically translates to "You are a rainbow," nihao [hello in Mandarin], and to thank Your Excellency for the gracious words of welcome this afternoon. I also wish to express my sincere gratitude for the gracious hospitality accorded to me and my delegation since our arrival in this beautiful country.

Despite the vast ocean that separates our two countries and peoples, we share rich traditions and glorious cultures dating back thousands of years, tied to our common Austronesian heritage. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that our common affinities and close people-to-people relationships have brought us closer than ever before. Nearly 24 years ago in November of 1998, diplomatic relations between the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of China (Taiwan) were formally established by the ROC (Taiwan)'s first popularly elected President Dr. Lee Teng-hui and our country's second president, who is my late Uncle, president, and Iroijlaplap Imata Jabro Kabua.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands strongly affirms our close relationship with Taiwan. This lasting friendship between our free and democratic nations remains unshakable. A testament to this, is the recent adoption of a unanimous resolution by our parliament (Nitijela) reiterating the unwavering support of the government and people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands for the Republic of China (Taiwan). As peoples, as independent nations, and most importantly as lasting friends, we have shared values and commitments, and no matter the challenges, our two democracies will continue on this path of a common future together. The warmth and perseverance of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and her people as a sovereign and democratic nation continue to serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for peoples and nations around the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted to the international community why it is so critical that the world move toward inclusiveness and ensure that "no one is left behind." The ROC (Taiwan) has, since the global pandemic, proven and shown exemplary leadership and resilience to the pandemic and continues to provide assistance to nations worldwide who are suffering from the consequences of COVID-19. Taiwan's leadership in the international platform deserves to be acknowledged. In this day and age, when our common humanity stands at the brink of collapse, and the future is uncertain, it is incumbent on all of us to do our part to preserve, protect, and promote our shared ideals of democracy, freedom, human rights, and the rule of law. I believe that unless we are able to safeguard these most basic tenets, our common future cannot be assured. There is an old Marshallese adage, it goes like this "an piliñliñ koba komman lometo," which translates to "many drops together make a mighty ocean." This means that every nation, regardless of size, wealth, and/or standing in the world must be allowed to contribute to our common global humanity. The Republic of China (Taiwan) too must be given every opportunity to be a contributing member of the international community of nations, especially the United Nations. We reiterate our message that this shameful silence must end.

I firmly believe that Taiwan's 23.6 million people deserve to participate in regional and international forums, including the specialized agencies of the United Nations such as the World Health Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and any other agency of the UN that it chooses to participate in. The Republic of the Marshall Islands will not rest in its advocacy for the ROC (Taiwan)'s recognition and inclusion.

In our talks, we have committed to enhancing and deepening bilateral relations. While our two countries have an engaging relationship, there are opportunities for expansion in the areas of infrastructure development, agricultural support for food security, cultural collaboration, close people-to-people exchanges, and a wide range of others, including but not limited to trade and investment, tourism, renewable energy, health, transportation, education, as well as climate change efforts.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is a proud member of the Austronesian forum. I understand that from the Executive Council Meeting of the 2021 Austronesian Forum, it was decided that the RMI will host the next Austronesian Forum this year. We are immensely grateful for the opportunity to host and certainly look forward to further exchange of cultural views with Taiwan and other like-minded countries. Furthermore, we are most happy to hear that the Council of Indigenous Peoples has approved the opening of a sub-office for the Austronesian Forum in the Marshall Islands.

Excellency, over the years, you have managed to grace us with your presence to our humble shores on more than one occasion. And I am confident that during those visits you witnessed our proud culture, our future aspirations, as well as our vulnerability. As a low-lying island nation, we have no higher ground, and climate change impacts are a severe threat to our future. Future projections of sea-level rise threaten our security and survival, and we are already experiencing loss and damage impacts in our local communities. We have had no choice but to fight for stronger international awareness and ambition to forge action on climate change. In this fight we stand shoulder to shoulder with other island nations, including the ROC (Taiwan), and many of our closest friends. The Marshall Islands is proud of Taiwan's leadership on clean energy, and welcome your strong action to address your own emissions – we all must play a part. We look forward to cooperating closely with the Republic of China (Taiwan) to continue to combat the devastating impacts and existential threat caused by climate change.

My visit provided us with the unique opportunity for an exchange of views on current international affairs as well as our bilateral relations. I am proud of our achievements and am hopeful that my visit will serve as a springboard to enhanced relations through enduring partnership between our two countries and a prosperous future together.

Among those in attendance at the banquet were Secretary-General to the President David T. Lee (李大維), National Security Council Secretary-General Wellington Koo (顧立雄), Senior Advisor to the President Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏), Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), Council of Indigenous Peoples Minister Icyang Parod, National Security Council Deputy Secretary-General Hsu Szu-chien (徐斯儉), Ocean Affairs Council Deputy Minister and Coast Guard Administration Director-General Chou Mei-wu (周美伍), Ambassador to the Marshall Islands Jeffrey S.C. Hsiao (蕭勝中), and Marshall Islands Ambassador Neijon Rema Edwards.