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Fri, Feb 23, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Chen planning to visit Latin America in late May

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A senior aide to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday that the president will make his second diplomatic tour to Central and South American allies after May 20, the anniversary of his inauguration.

"The major purpose of President Chen's trip is to attend the biannual Central American Leaders Summit, which was originally scheduled to be held in El Salvador this year," the aide said.

The aide, who will take part in the trip, said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was still arranging the final schedule, "and the possibility of visiting some other countries or regions, which may not have official foreign relations with Taiwan, does exist."

The latest schedule includes four countries -- El Salvador, Panama, Guatemala and Paraguay -- and possibly Honduras.

"The president is considering visiting more countries in South America," the aide said.

"The dates will at the end of May or the beginning of June because it is necessary to coordinate with the situation in El Salvador, which has just suffered a series of catastrophic earthquakes," the aide added.

"Although the government of El Salvador has expressed a strong willingness to hold the biannual Central American Leaders Summit, it has not as yet decided on a date."

The first summit was held in 1997, when former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) made his first visit to Central America. The second meeting was in Taipei in 1999.

The official title of this year's summit is the "Third Meeting of Heads of States and Governments between the Republic of China and Countries of the Central American Isthmus."

A visit to Latin American would be Chen's second trip abroad since taking office, following a diplomatic friendship tour last August to six allies in the Caribbean, Central America and Africa.

In contrast to the last trip, Chen may stop over in New York, Houston or other cities, rather than Los Angeles.

"The approval of stopovers in some new cities is still being negotiated between Taiwan and the US government. The suggestion of a stopover in Houston was offered by House of Representatives majority whip Tom DeLay," the aide said.

The aide said that it was hoped that when the president stopped over in the US, he would be treated better than he was last year, and that such a stopover might afford an opportunity for a breakthrough in Taiwan-US relations.

The Los Angeles stopover was kept low-key and private on the insistence of the US government, which does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Chen was forbidden to meet any politicians or make any public remarks.

Taiwan currently has 29 diplomatic allies, most of them developing nations in Central America, Africa and the south Pacific.

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