The bi-annual leadership summit between Taiwan and its Central and South American allies will be postponed for one year as Costa Rica, the country designated to host the meeting this year, severed ties with Taiwan in 2007, Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) said yesterday at the Foreign and National Defense Committee.
He said Taiwan had suggested holding the meeting in Taipei but many allies’ leaders had rejected the idea, saying it would be too time-consuming to travel to Taiwan.
The postponement means it will be three years before the group reconvenes since its last meeting in Honduras.
Ou said he had expressed interest in President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) attending the June 1 inauguration ceremony of El Salvadoran president-elect Mauricio Funes, adding that “so far the Presidential Office has not said no” to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ plan to arrange the trip.
The foreign minister recently concluded an eight-day trip to El Salvador to shore up 68 years of bilateral ties after Funes publicly advocated forging closer trade relations with Beijing during his election campaign.
Ou said that so far there had been no concrete plans regarding Ma’s transit through the US for the trip, but he said the president had previously called for “low-profile” stopovers in the US to avoid inconvenience for the host country.
Responding to a Taipei Times story about the possibility of US Marines being posted at the new American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) compound in Neihu (內湖), Ou said the ministry had not been officially notified by AIT on the matter.
The minister said that based on the principle of reciprocity, if the security guards at the AIT compound were allowed to carry arms, then Taiwan would request the same privilege for its guards at the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Relations Office (TECRO) in Washington.
Ou said that according to Taiwan’s representative to the US, Jason Yuan (袁健生), the office currently lacks an adequate nighttime security system.
Some lawmakers have suggested stationing Taiwanese military police at TECRO facilities.
AIT Spokesman Thomas Hodges said there had been no changes since the AIT last discussed the possibility of posting Marines at the facility one year ago.
“AIT’s planned new office in Neihu will include housing for a security detachment. Such plans are in keeping with US global security standards. These plans represent no change in US policy toward Taiwan,” he said.
Meanwhile, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) and Twu Shiing-jer (�?�) urged the ministry to request the US be the nation to pitch a resolution at the upcoming World Health Assembly (WHA) on granting Taiwan observer status.
They warned that if the action was taken by Beijing, it would solidify Taiwan’s status as China’s associate member as outlined in a memorandum of understanding signed between Beijing and the WHO in 2005.
Twu asked the foreign ministry to hold a closed-door meeting with the lawmakers to share details of negotiations with other WHO member-states and Beijing regarding Taiwan’s bid.
Committee head Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Justin Chou (周守訓), however, quickly interjected and told Twu that he would get a “satisfactory answer” before May 18, the first day of the WHA.
In related news, Ou said the ministry would shut down its representative offices in Bolivia and Bangladesh because of low demand for their services.