Ms. Tsai’s visit, which has been planned for months, was partly aimed at reinforcing her government’s ties with the Caribbean nations that are among the few remaining in the world to retain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Her 12-day itinerary includes stopovers at four of those nations, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and Haiti.
“Freedom, democracy and sustainability are the Taiwanese values we want to share with all our good friends in the world,” Ms. Tsai said in a speech before her departure from Taiwan, according to its official Central News Agency.
Taiwan’s tensions with China have grown under Ms. Tsai, who has been president since 2016. A member of Taiwan’s independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, she has stressed what she has called the need to strengthen the country’s military defenses. She faces an election in January.
Ms. Tsai toughened her rhetoric on China in April after Chinese fighter jets crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which separates mainland China and Taiwan, for the first time since 1999. Taiwan jets scrambled and repelled their Chinese counterparts, which came within 115 miles of the island’s coast.
“These actions by China are not only unilateral changes to the cross-strait status quo, even more, they are a brazen provocation to regional security and stability,” Ms. Tsai said afterward.
Ms. Tsai’s pro-independence politics, and Taiwan’s ties with the United States, have led to criticism from China.
In denouncing the Pentagon’s decision to allow the arms sale to Taiwan, a spokesman for China’s State Council, Ma Xiaoguang, said Tuesday that Ms. Tsai’s party should not rely on foreign strength, which would “draw fire against yourself” and require her to “pay a price.”