PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou and Haiti's President Michel Martelly celebrated the official start of construction Tuesday on a new Supreme Court building to replace the one destroyed in the Haitian capital in a devastating January 2010 earthquake.

The two presidents laid the ceremonial first stone during Ma's one-day visit to Haiti, the first in a trip to the Caribbean and South America.

Martelly thanked Taiwan for its support for reconstruction, including nearly $16 million for the courthouse being built in a neo-colonial style near the grounds of the National Palace, which was also destroyed in the quake. The courthouse is expected to take about two years to complete and is being built by Taipei-based construction company OECC.

This was the first visit by a Taiwanese president to Haiti, and Martelly told reporters that he asked Ma to encourage Taiwanese companies to invest in Haiti. He also asked for support to help improve the impoverished country's agricultural sector.

Haiti is one of 23 countries to recognize the self-governing island of Taiwan. Mainland China considers Taiwan part of its territory and objects to diplomatic recognition of Taipei by other governments.

Ma will be visiting other countries that recognize Taiwan, including St. Kitts and Nevis; St. Lucia; St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Paraguay, where he will attend the new president's inauguration.

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