President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) departed last night for an eight-day diplomatic tour of two African allies — Sao Tome and Principe and Burkina Faso — and will also attend the inauguration of Honduran president-elect Juan Orlando Hernandez.
This is Ma’s ninth diplomatic tour since he first took office in 2008.
The island nation of Sao Tome and Principe is the only diplomatic ally of the Republic of China that Ma has not yet visited during his more than five years as president.
Ma planned to visit Sao Tome and Principe during a trip to Africa in April 2012, but canceled the plan because Sao Tomean President Manuel Pinto da Costa was unavailable to meet him at the time.
Ma will first visit Sao Tome and then Burkina Faso and Honduras, one of the nation’s six Central American diplomatic allies, to attend the presidential inauguration on Monday before returning to Taipei via Los Angeles on Thursday next week.
Yeh De-guey (葉德貴), a counselor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs, said that Ma’s visit to Honduras would not involve new bilateral cooperative projects.
“The purpose of President Ma’s visit is to attend the Jan. 27 inauguration of Honduran president-elect Hernandez and will not touch on the area of bilateral cooperation,” Yeh said, when asked whether the two sides would discuss any new Taiwan-funded assistance programs in Honduras.
Meanwhile, ministry spokesperson Anna Kao (高安) dismissed speculation about “checkbook diplomacy,” with media reports saying Ma was prepared to expand Taiwan’s assistance to the countries he is visiting in an effort to consolidate bilateral ties.
Kao reiterated that the government carries out foreign aid programs under three principles — seeking proper goals, acting lawfully and exercising effective administration.