Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-has departed on her first overseas trip since taking office amid speculation over whether China will tighten its diplomatic stranglehold on the self-governing island it claims as its own territory.

Tsai departed Friday on separate visits to allies Panama and Paraguay, stopping in Miami on the way and in Los Angeles on the way home. She is due to attend the formal opening of new ship locks on the Panama Canal before delivering a speech to Paraguay's parliament on Tuesday.

Taiwan has formal diplomatic relations with just 22 nations as a result of China's efforts to isolate the island.

Some observers expect China to increase that pressure in order to compel the independence-leaning Tsai to explicitly endorse Beijing's stance that Taiwan is part of China.