TAIPEI, March 22 (Reuters) - The president of the Marshall Islands pledged firm commitment to ties with Taiwan on Tuesday, offering his support at a time when Taiwan is facing increased diplomatic pressure from Beijing.
The tiny Pacific nation is one of only 14 countries that maintain formal diplomatic ties with Chinese-claimed Taiwan.
Beijing says Taiwan does not have the right to state-to-state relations and is stepping up pressure to lure away its remaining friends - the last country to switch was Nicaragua in December. In response, Taiwan has sought to bolster relations with its remaining allies.
The United States has been particularly keen that Taiwan's Pacific friends do not switch their recognition to China, wary of its expanding its influence in what the United States has long considered its backyard.
Speaking at a welcome ceremony with President Tsai Ing-wen outside her office in central Taipei, the president of the Marshall Islands, David Kabua, said he was confident about their "unique alliance".
"Taiwan is a shining example of a vibrant and peaceful progressive nation. It is time for Taiwan to take its rightful place as an equal member of the family of nations," said Kabua.
Taiwan is shut out of many global organisations due to China's objections.
"I want to take this moment to reaffirm to your excellency and to the government of the Republic of China, Taiwan, that the Republic of the Marshall Islands is strongly committed to further strengthen the bonds between our two countries," he added, referring to Taiwan by its official name.
Tsai, who visited the Marshall Islands in 2019 and 2017, thanked Kabua for speaking up for Taiwan on the global stage, including at the United Nations last year.
"Both I and the people of Taiwan were deeply grateful for these righteous words," she said.
Kabua is on his first official overseas visit since being elected in 2020.
Taiwan and the Marshall Islands forged ties in 1998.
Palau, Nauru and Tuvalu are the other Pacific island states still on Taiwan's side. The Solomon Islands and Kiribati went over to Beijing in 2019.
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.