Tsai Ing-wen, president of Taiwan, began a state visit to eSwatini on Monday, marking 55 years of diplomatic relations with the last remaining African nation to honor the sovereignty of the island nation claimed by China. But South Africa’s Democratic Alliance (DA) issued a statement claiming that it, too, supports Taiwan.

“The Kingdom of Eswatini is our staunch ally in Africa,” said Tsai as she departed Taipei for the four-day trip. “Not only has Eswatini long spoken up for Taiwan in the international arena, but since ascending to the throne in 1986, King Mswati III has visited Taiwan 18 times, reflecting the profound friendship between our two countries.”

The prime minister of eSwatini, Cleopas Sipho Dlamini, met Tsai at the airport when she arrived. Taiwan and the southern African nation are expected to strengthen bilateral nations that the African continent has, in recent years, left behind in favor of Beijing.

In South Africa, opposition leader John Steenhuisen of the DA welcomed Tsai to the continent, despite his own nation’s embrace of a “one China” doctrine that’s not negotiable in Beijing. South Africa reasserted its position while hosting the recent BRICS summit in August.

“It is heartening to see that other members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are opening their doors to Taiwan,” said Steenhuisen. “The Democratic Alliance remains an ally of Taiwan … and we look forward to welcoming you to South Africa in the near future.”

China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning did not address the visit during a Tuesday briefing, but did speak to Taiwan’s effort to maintain its independent presence at the United Nations with support from other countries. This year’s UN General Assembly activities began Monday in New York.

“Any issue regarding the Taiwan region’s participation in the activities of international organizations must be addressed under the framework of the one-China principle,” she said. “Taiwan has no basis, reason or right to join the UN or other international organizations that require statehood.”

Image: Government of Taiwan

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