Thu, Jun 04, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Ortega meeting canceled after postponements

By Ko Shu-ling and Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTERS

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) canceled a meeting with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on Monday after Ortega twice postponed the meeting, raising concerns over bilateral ties.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦), who is accompanying Ma on his Central America trip, said the meeting had been scheduled for 4:30pm but was postponed until 6:30pm.

When the Taiwanese delegation learned that Ortega would not wrap up his earlier engagement until 9pm, they decided to cancel the meeting, Wang said.

Wang said the meeting was called off because a suitable time could not be found, dismissing speculation the government was trying to bring an end to an era of “checkbook diplomacy.”

As Ma is scheduled to visit Central America again later this month or early next month, Monday’s cancelation was not a problem, Wang said.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) said yesterday that ties with Nicaragua remained strong, adding that it was not uncommon for Latin American officials to be late.

“Sometimes they schedule a dinner appointment for seven but by nine you still haven’t seen anyone at the dinner table,” he said. “Minister [of Foreign Affairs Francisco] Ou [歐鴻鍊] made it very clear that as Ortega couldn’t meet with Ma on this trip, they would set up a meeting when Ma visits the region again in July.”

The Nicaraguan government switched diplomatic ties from Taipei to Beijing in 1985 only to re-establish ties with Taipei in 1990 after former president Violeta Chamorro took office.

While campaigning for the 2006 presidential election, Ortega said he would resume ties with Beijing if elected.

After he won, however, then- president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) attended his inauguration in January 2007 and Ortega promised that Nicaragua would maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

He also said he hoped his country could have “good relations with both sides of the Taiwan Strait.”

Chen visited Nicaragua again in August 2007, when Ortega said he would maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan if re-elected in 2011 but was not against establishing official ties with China as long as Beijing did not demand that Managua cut ties with Taipei.

Then-foreign minister James Huang (黃志芳), who accompanied Chen on the August 2007 trip, dismissed accusations that Taiwan bought Managua’s loyalty.

Huang said US$1.1 million in financial aid that Taipei gave Managua to help it combat poverty was nothing new and that US$830,000 had been given to Nicaragua since 2006.

Statistics show that Taiwan had invested more than US$230 million in Nicaragua by 2006 and created more than 25,000 jobs.

Other projects promised to the region during Chen’s presidency included a US$5 million low interest loan to Honduras and 500 motorcycles for police in El Salvador.

Meanwhile, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers accused Ma of being a “diplomatic ignoramus” and marring Taiwan’s image by calling US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “Mrs Clinton” rather than “Madame Secretary” or “Secretary Clinton” when they met at a banquet for outgoing Salvadoran president Elias Antonio Saca on Sunday.

The 24-second meeting was the highest level of exchange between a Taiwanese and US official since Washington switched ties to Beijing in 1979.

“This goes to show that Ma is completely ignorant when it comes to diplomacy and international etiquette. What he did embarrassed not only himself, but also Taiwan,” said DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯), a member of the Foreign and National Defense Committee.

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