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Taiwan president to visit Sao Tome & Principe, Burkina Faso, Honduras
Stopovers planned for Frankfurt and Los Angeles: Reports
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-01-07 03:25 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – President Ma Ying-jeou will transit in Germany and the United States on his trip to visit the African allies of Sao Tome and Principe and Burkina Faso on his way to the inauguration of the new president of Honduras later this month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.

President-elect Juan Orlando Hernandez will be sworn in on January 27 in the Central American country, one of Taiwan’s 22 remaining allies.

Ma reportedly wanted to visit Sao Tome and Principe, a former Portuguese colony consisting of two main islands off the west coast of Africa, in April 2012, but President Manuel Pinto da Costa could not find the time on his itinerary, reports said. When the country’s premier visited Taipei last November, he brought along an invitation to Ma for an official trip, reports said.

Sao Tome and Principe was reportedly the last official ally that President Ma had not visited since taking office in 2008.

After departing from the island nation, he will also travel to Burkina Faso, the landlocked former French colony in West Africa once known as Upper Volta.

After attending the presidential inauguration in Honduras, Ma will transit in Los Angeles to compensate for his shortened itinerary on the United States West Coast when he had to cut short an overseas trip due to a typhoon at home last August. At the time, he only stayed for a few hours, but later this month, a longer stay was likely, reports said.

Transit stops in the US have usually been the opportunity for Taiwan presidents to meet with senior politicians and officials, as well as meeting representatives of local Taiwanese communities.

While passing through the US has been quite common for Taiwanese leaders, transit stops in Europe are less so. On his way to Africa, Ma will stop in Frankfurt, Germany, though he will not spend the night there, officials said.

Ma’s latest delegation would include Foreign Minister David Lin, other Cabinet members, lawmakers, academics and prominent business people, reports said. He will set off on the trip on January 23 and return on January 30. First Lady Christine Chow would not accompany him on this voyage, according to officials.

Taiwan’s foreign relations suffered their latest setback last November when Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh announced he was breaking off diplomatic relations with Taipei. An emissary failed to persuade the West African leader to change his mind, and as a result, Taiwan closed its embassy and withdrew its ambassador along with its technical development teams.

Since coming to power, Ma has pushed for a ‘flexible diplomacy’ ending the previous competition with Beijing to take away each other’s allies. The president claimed the policy would encourage countries to improve existing relations with Taiwan, though critics said it led to the demoralization of Taiwanese diplomats because they no longer had to fight for recognition. Ma’s attitude would lead to more countries ditching Taiwan in favor of improved trade and diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, critics said.

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