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President Tsai Ing-wen, left, and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales greet the media during her state visit to the ROC diplomatic ally in January 2017.
President Tsai Ing-wen (left), and King Mswati III meet at Lozitha Royal Palace April 17, 2018, in the Kingdom of Eswatini. Tsai was on a four-day state visit for celebrations marking 50 years of independence for the African nation, the king’s 50th birthday and 50 years of bilateral ties. (Courtesy of Office of the President)
Fact Focus:

  • More than 160 countries and territories accord visa-free, landing visa or e-visa privileges to Republic of China (Taiwan) passport holders.
  • Taiwan is the only nation included in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program that does not maintain official diplomatic relations with the United States.
The ROC is a sovereign and independent state that maintains its own national defense and conducts its own foreign affairs. As enshrined in the ROC Constitution, thecountry aims to “cultivate good-neighborliness with other nations, and respect treaties and the Charter of the U.N. … promote international cooperation, protect international justice and ensure world peace.” The ultimate goal of the country’s foreign policy is to ensure a favorable environment for the nation’s preservation and long-term development.
The government is committed to its approach of steadfast diplomacy, which aims to advance mutual assistance for mutual benefits. The policy is also defined as firm in purpose and is targeted at building robust relationships with diplomatic allies and countries that share the common values of freedom and democracy. Under this approach, the focus of the country’s diplomatic work is shifting from the one-way provision of foreign aid to two-way dialogue, with bilateral cooperation projects taking into consideration the development of both industries and markets.
Under President Tsai Ing-wen’s New Southbound Policy, Taiwan is also striving to broaden exchanges with the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states, six South Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand on economic and trade cooperation, talent cultivation, resource sharing and regional links. The long-term goal is to create a new type of cooperation based on mutual benefits.
The ROC has diplomatic relations with 17 countries and substantive ties with many others. From Jan. 7-15, 2017, President Tsai visited four diplomatic allies in Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. During this trip, she attended the inauguration ceremony of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and held bilateral talks with the heads of state of these countries. From Oct. 28 to Nov. 4, 2017, President Tsai visited three diplomatic allies in the Pacific: Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. During this trip, she established agreements for more exchanges with these countries and visited several Taiwan-backed collaborative projects spanning climate change, disease prevention and renewable energy.
new southbound policy:Economic and trade cooperation, Regional links, Talent cultivation, Resource sharing.
International Participation
Taiwan has full membership in 37 intergovernmental organizations and their subsidiary bodies, including the World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Asian Development Bank and Central American Bank for Economic Integration. It also enjoys observer or other statuses in 21 IGOs and their subsidiary bodies, including the Inter-American Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and committees of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Taiwan will, while upholding national sovereignty and dignity and advancing the welfare of the people, engage with the international community pragmatically and professionally to contribute wherever possible. It will also seek support for its participation in U.N. specialized agencies and mechanisms focused on welfare and development such as the World Health Organization, International Civil Aviation Organization and U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Japan, the U.S., European nations and other countries have voiced support for Taiwan’s participation in U.N. specialized agencies and mechanisms such as ICAO and UNFCCC.
As of Feb. 21, 2018, 167 countries and territories have accorded visa-free, landing visa or e-visa privileges to ROC (Taiwan) passport holders. Taiwan has also inked working holiday agreements with 15 countries.
Strong Relations
Notably, among the 38 countries included in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, Taiwan is the only one that does not maintain official diplomatic relations with the United States, highlighting the otherwise close relationship between the two sides. The Taiwan Relations Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1979, has continued to provide a strong foundation for Taiwan-U.S. cooperation in the absence of formal diplomatic ties. In the new National Security Strategy unveiled by U.S. President Donald J. Trump Dec. 18, 2017, the U.S. reaffirmed its commitment to providing defensive weapons to Taiwan under the TRA.
The ROC and the Holy See have long-standing diplomatic relations and possess a shared commitment to religious freedom and humanitarian relief. Acting in line with the universal values of peace, freedom, democracy and respect for human rights, Taiwan will continue to be an indispensable partner to the Holy See and other countries in their efforts to promote love, charity and world peace.
Likewise, sharing common values such as democracy, freedom and the rule of law, Taiwan and the EU, together with other European countries, have expanded cooperation and exchanges across numerous fields such as economics, technology and culture. For instance, economic and trade ties between Taiwan and European countries are stable and close. The EU is Taiwan’s fifth-largest trading partner and largest source of foreign direct investment, with accumulated investment reaching more than US$61.52 billion as of 2017.
On April 10, 2013, Taiwan signed a fisheries agreement with Japan after 17 rounds of negotiations since 1996, expanding the fishing grounds of Taiwan vessels in waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea. Strong ties between the two sides are underscored by the renaming of Japan’s representative office in Taiwan from the Interchange Association, Japan to the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association in January 2017, as well as Taiwan’s Association of East Asian Relations to the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association in May 2017.
Taiwan and Japan held their second annual meeting on maritime affairs in Taipei City Dec. 20, 2017. Staged in accordance with a marine cooperation dialogue mechanism established in 2016, the forum explored opportunities for collaboration across a wide range of areas such as fisheries and scientific research, and concluded with the signing of a memorandum of understanding on search and rescue operations.
In November 2015, Taiwan and the Philippines concluded the Agreement Concerning the Facilitation of Cooperation on Law Enforcement in Fisheries Matters to safeguard the security of fishermen from both sides.
On July 19, 2016, President Tsai put forth four principles and five actions pertaining to the South China Sea issue. The four principles are: Firstly, disputes in the South China Sea should be settled peacefully in accordance with international law and the law of the sea, including the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. Secondly, Taiwan should be included in multilateral mechanisms aimed at resolving disputes. Thirdly, states concerned have an obligation to safeguard freedom of navigation and overflight in the region. Lastly, disputes should be resolved by setting aside differences and promoting joint development. Through negotiations conducted on the basis of equality, Taiwan is willing to work with all states concerned to advance peace and stability in the South China Sea, and to jointly conserve and develop resources in the region. The five actions include safeguarding the country’s fishing rights, participating in multilateral consultations, promoting scientific cooperation, strengthening humanitarian response and nurturing experts in the law of the sea.
A doctor from Changhua Christian Hospital in central Taiwan examines a patient during a medical mission to Nepal.
A doctor from Changhua Christian Hospital in central Taiwan examines a patient during a medical mission to Nepal. (Courtesy of CCH)
The government is working to transform Taiping Island in the Nansha (Spratly) Islands into a base for humanitarian aid and supplies in the South China Sea. Since assuming responsibility in 2000 for maintaining the government’s presence on Taiping Island as well as the Dongsha (Pratas) Islands, the Coast Guard Administration has conducted 75 disaster response and humanitarian aid missions and assisted 105 individuals from home and abroad. The CGA is committed to deepening collaboration with its counterparts from neighboring countries in line with the government’s policy of working with all relevant parties to advance peace and stability in the South China Sea.
With an area of 0.51 square kilometers, Taiping Island can sustain human habitation and an economic life of its own. It also meets the criteria of an island as defined in Article 121 of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, affording the ROC full rights associated with territorial waters, a contiguous zone, a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone and a continental shelf under UNCLOS.
Win-Win Cooperation
As a model citizen in global society, Taiwan will continue to promote humanitarian aid and disease control while actively participating in international efforts to tackle climate change, terrorism and transnational crime. Going forward, the nation will build lasting partnerships with allied and like-minded countries through fostering governmental interactions, business investment and people-to-people exchanges, and work with its partners around the world to uphold and promote the universal values of peace, freedom, democracy and human rights.
Changes in society, economic liberalization and democratic transformation in Taiwan have created a fertile environment for the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations have flourished. Civil society today plays a key role in ensuring good governance and enabling Taiwan to exert its soft power in the international arena. NGOs have raised Taiwan’s profile by engaging in various international cooperation projects closely aligned with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.