President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) will embark on a five-day diplomatic trip to Palau and the Sol-omon Islands, with a stopover in Guam, at the end of this month, the Presidential Office said yesterday.
"President Chen's visit marks the first time a president of Taiwan has traveled to this nation's diplomatic allies in the South Pacific region. [The trip] therefore carries historical significance," Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General James Huang (黃志芳) said during a press conference.
The main purpose of Chen's trip is to attend Palauan President Tommy Remengesau's inauguration.
"President Chen's visit to the South Pacific shows that we attach importance to our allies in the South Pacific region. The visit also demonstrates out determination to offer substantial development assistance," Huang added.
Chen will leave on Jan. 27. In Palau, Chen will spend two days attending Remengesau's inauguration and visiting the Rock Islands, a tourist attraction, as well as hosting a dinner for Taiwanese expatriates.
"While visiting the Rock Islands, we might have a chance to see a dolphin kissing President Chen on the cheek," Huang said.
Remengesau apparently has a passion for yachting, and Huang said Chen might have a chance to ride on Remengesau's yacht during his time in Palau.
Chen will then travel to the Solomon Islands for a two-day visit.
During his stay there, Chen will sign a joint communique with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza and give interviews to the international press. Chen will also visit Taiwan's aide mission and the opening ceremony for a hospital funded by Taiwan.
Chen will address the parliaments of Palau and the Solomon Islands, Huang said.
He will also make a five-hour stopover at the US territory of Guam before returning to Taipei on Jan. 31.
Huang said the leader of Guam, Governor Felix Camacho, had welcomed Chen's stopover but at the moment was unsure of his schedule, and could not guarantee he would be able to greet Chen in person.
"The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) will have someone of appropriate status greet President Chen [in Guam]," Huang said.
Chen's entourage will include Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山), Government Information Office Director-General Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), Chiayi County Commissioner Chen Ming-wen (陳明文) and Taitung County Commissioner Hsu Ching-yuan (徐慶元).
Huang also said that Vice President Annette Lu's (呂秀蓮) visit to Central America next month has been postponed.
"Our Central American allies responded eagerly to news of the vice president's visit and came up with several suggestions and new ideas," Huang said.
"To make the visit more substantial, it has been postponed to allow for better preparations and assessments," he said.
While a new timetable is yet to be announced, Huang said it would likely be no later than June.