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Taiwan President meets US Secretary of State John Kerry in Panama
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-07-02 05:16 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – President Ma Ying-jeou had three meetings with United States Secretary of State John Kerry in the margin of the inauguration of Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela Tuesday.

Washington is Taiwan’s top ally but the two don’t maintain official diplomatic relations, making visits by senior US officials to the island a rare occasion subject to protests from China.

Panama is one of 22 diplomatic allies, allowing Ma to travel there to attend the presidential inauguration. He will also be visiting El Salvador.

Pictures showed Ma standing in the front row for the ceremony between two Latin American presidents, while Kerry appeared to be standing just behind him.

There were a total of three interactions between Ma and the Secretary of State, reports said. Because the inauguration ceremony started late, Ma spent some time with Kerry and eight heads of state watching the World Cup match between Argentina and Switzerland, reports said.

Later, Ma and Kerry met again at the national banquet for the inauguration. The president told reporters that he brought up Taiwan’s efforts to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its hopes of soon concluding a bilateral investment protection agreement. Kerry said that Taiwan should continue to make an effort, according to Ma.

The president also told the US Secretary of State how he was satisfied that his stopovers in Hawaii and San Francisco had been handled in a safe, practical and respectful manner. Taiwanese presidents often make stopovers in the US on their way to visit allies in Latin America. The transits provide the opportunity to visit US cities and meet with prominent politicians and Taiwanese expatriates.

Earlier, a State Department spokesperson said only that Kerry would shake hands with all the guests at the inauguration but that there were no official or unofficial plans for discussions with Ma.

Ma’s encounters with Kerry were the highest-level interactions between Taiwan and the US since last year’s inauguration of Pope Francis at the Vatican, where the president met US Vice President Joe Biden.

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