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Palau’s new president preparing to visit Taiwan

Trip likely to be scheduled for late March or early April as 'travel bubble' talks continue

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Palau President Surangel Whipps, Jr. (center) is preparing a visit to Taiwan (Facebook, President Surangel Whipps, Jr. photo) 

Palau President Surangel Whipps, Jr. (center) is preparing a visit to Taiwan (Facebook, President Surangel Whipps, Jr. photo) 

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Palauan President Surangel Whipps, Jr. is preparing for his first official visit to diplomatic ally Taiwan since taking office in January, reports said Wednesday (March 10).

The news came as the two island countries discuss plans for a "travel bubble," as Taiwan’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic has proved largely successful and Palau has not recorded any infections, CNA reported.

The timing of the visit depends on when the travel agreement is introduced, but it will most likely be in late March or early April, Palau Ambassador Dilmei Olkeriil said.

Palau is one of Taiwan’s 15 official diplomatic allies, and the relationship has been close regardless of the president serving in either country. Before the pandemic struck, Palau was a popular holiday destination for Taiwanese tourists, and a travel ban issued by China in 2018 was widely seen as punishment for the Pacific island nation’s refusal to sever ties with Taiwan.

Since January, a military medical team from the United States has been helping with a coronavirus vaccination program in Palau, Olkeriil said. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Taiwan and Palau have reached an advanced stage of discussions about the procedures necessary for travel between the two countries under a travel bubble, with an agreement expected in the near future.