Minister grilled over cancellation of Ma's visit to African ally
Central News Agency
2012-03-28 12:33 PM
Taipei, March 28 (CNA) Opposition legislators on Wednesday bombarded Foreign Minister Timothy Yang with questions over why Sao Tome and Principe was taken off President Ma Ying-jeou's African itinerary just days before his departure. It is a case of "loosing face," charged Chen Ting-fei of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at a hearing of the Legislature's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs disclosed in a statement on March 26 that Ma and his delegation would not be stopping in the African country next month because President Manuel Pinto da Costa will be visiting other countries at that time. Ma was scheduled to tour all four of Taiwan's African diplomatic allies -- Burkina Faso, Gambia, Swaziland, and Sao Tome and Principe -- from April 7 to April 18 on his first overseas trip since winning re-election in early January. "It's like saying we are not at home, so you shouldn't come," criticized Chen, who urged the foreign minister to find out the real reasons behind the last-minute schedule change. Sao Tome and Principe was not able to receive Ma because of "certain difficulties," Yang responded, saying that Pinto da Costa's administration had made a major effort to align the schedules of the two presidents. Pinto da Costa went so far as to drop two overseas trips but was unable to postpone a third one, Yang said. "They asked us to change the schedule to April 30 but that time frame was inconvenient for us," Yang said, noting that Ma's inauguration ceremony will be held on May 20. Hsiao Bi-khim, another DPP legislator, described the situation as a "terrible scene" and also demanded that the Foreign Ministry offer information on Pinto da Costa's claims. Meanwhile, ruling Kuomintang lawmaker Lin Hung-chih said diplomatic relations between Taiwan and Sao Tome and Principe require attention amid worries that the cancellation of Ma's visit may signal the existence of a diplomatic crisis. (By Nancy Liu)
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