Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) yesterday shrugged off criticism of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) foreign trips, denying KMT claims that three state trips by Chen have cost taxpayers NT$15 billion.
"I have no clue how this amount of NT$15 billion came about," Chien said yesterday.
Chen made his first official trip abroad in August 2000, when he visited six diplomatic allies in Central America and Africa. His second trip, in May last year, was to five allies in central and South America.
On Wednesday, he returned from his third trip, this time to four African countries.
Chien said the respective costs of Chen's three foreign trips since his inauguration in May 2000 were NT$95 million, NT$100 million and NT$60 million.
"I want to emphasize that President Chen during his three state visits overseas has not sealed any new cooperation agreements," he said.
The foreign minister said that the president had gone overseas to supervise the implementation of various foreign aid projects that had already been set up, most of which run for four or five years.
Chien also said transportation and accommodation expenses should be treated separately from donations and foreign aid.
"We reached understandings [with our allies] before the president's three trips that no new economic aid projects would be sealed during Chen's visits," he said.
Chen donated US$300,000 to Malawi to help the country buy 2,000 tonnes of corn, and another US$150,000 to Swaziland to buy 1,000 tonnes of corn, Chien said.
When asked if the ministry had any concrete plans for Chen's next state visits, Chien said the ministry would not start planning anything until the second half of the year.
Meanwhile, Chien said the ministry would follow an Executive Yuan decision to print "Issued in Taiwan" in Roman script at the bottom of the nation's passport covers beginning in November.
He was speaking after DPP Legislator Trong Chai (
Chai said "it's a pity" that the ministry disregarded a resolution passed in the legislature's Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee on May 30.
The resolution recommended that "Taiwan" in Roman script be printed above "Passport" on the cover of passports, alongside the country's formal designation, Republic of China.
The resolution, which was aimed at overturning the Executive Yuan's decision in January to print "Issued in Taiwan" on the passports, received a boost on July 2 when the DPP's Central Standing Committee urged the Executive Yuan to adopt the recommendation.
But Chai, an initiator of the proposal in the legislative committee, received a letter from the ministry on July 9 saying that it would stick to the original plan.