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Tue, Aug 01, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Chen announces plans for trip

DIPLOMATIC VISIT The president said his trip to six of Taiwan's allies will not compromise national security

By Catherine Sung  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) confirmed yesterday his first planned state trip to six of Taiwan's diplomatic allies in Central America and Africa, saying the country must have an international presence despite pressure from China.

"Taiwan must stand up and step out internationally and let the whole world see Taiwan, the Republic of China," Chen said at his second formal press conference since his inauguration in May.

"My overseas trip is an important symbol of a state's independence and sovereignty," he said.

Chen tried to deflect criticism over the government's bungling of the Pachang Creek (八掌溪) tragedy and domestic pressure for him to cancel the trip. "Some criticize me for spending too much time touring Taiwan ... but I can't just sit in my office and enjoy the air conditioning," Chen said.

"It's the same concept as visiting relatives and friends ... [mutual visits] bring ties closer," he said.

The president also gave assurances that his overseas trip will not have a negative impact on national security or domestic political stability.

The "tour of democratic diplomacy and friendship" from Aug 13 to Aug 25 will take President Chen to the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Gambia, Burkina Faso and Chad.

Chen will transit through Los Angeles before flying to Central America.

He is to attend the inauguration of the Dominican Republic's new president Hipolito Mejia on Aug 16 and hold meetings with other head-of-states or diplomatic representative groups from Taiwan's allies in the region.

"I am visiting the Dominican Republic because like Taiwan, it has just undergone a transition in power," Chen said.

He will also preside over a conference in Costa Rica with members of Taiwan's diplomatic corps who are stationed in Central America.

The president is expected to fly directly to Gambia on Aug 19, launching the first-ever visit of a Taiwanese head-of-state to West Africa.

"Taiwan's African allies are very important to us. Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had planned to visit these countries on numerous occasions but was unable to do so ... I will overcome all difficulties to make the trip possible," Chen said.

Taiwan has eight diplomatic allies in Africa including Senegal, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Chad, Liberia, Malawi, Sao Tome and Principe and Swaziland.

Lee Teng-hui's trip to South Africa in 1994 to attend the inauguration of its former president, Nelson Mandela, is the last time Taiwan's president visited Africa.

Diplomatic relations between Taiwan and South Africa were severed in 1997.

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