Wed, Oct 08, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Details of Chen's next trip revealed

DIPLOMACY The president's diplomatic trip to the Americas, postponed last spring because of SARS fears, will see the signing of a free-trade deal with Panama

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Presidential Office yesterday announced that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is scheduled to take a seven-day official trip to Panama at the end of this month, stopping over in New York and Anchorage, Alaska.

"The main purpose of President Chen's forthcoming diplomatic trip is to accept an award from a famous international human-rights organization in New York and to attend a series of activities celebrating the 100th anniversary of Panama's independence," said Deputy Secretary General of the Presidential Office Joseph Wu (吳釗燮).

Panama is one of Taiwan's relatively few diplomatic allies, most of which are developing countries in Central and South America and Africa.

The president will leave at the end of this month and return a week later, Wu said at a press conference yesterday to announce the trip.

"President Chen is slated to leave Taiwan on Oct. 31, arrive in New York on the same day and stay there for two nights. There he will be honored at the annual meeting of the International League for Human Rights (ILHR)," Wu said.

Wu said that ILHR Chairman Scott Horton will present the prestigious Human Rights Award to Chen for his extraordinary contributions in promoting Taiwan's human-rights development. Past award winners include the Dalai Lama and former South African president Nelson Mandela

"The president will travel to Panama on Nov. 2 to attend that country's anniversary celebrations and will meet with international leaders and government officials during those activities," Wu said.

Wu said that Chen was invited by Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso, and the two heads of state will exchange the documents for a free-trade agreement between the two countries.

"All representatives of overseas Taiwanese associations from Central American countries will hold a dinner party to welcome the president," Wu said.

The president will leave Panama on Nov. 4 to return to Taiwan and the whole delegation will make its last stopover in Anchorage for one night, the Presidential Office said.

"To respond to Alaska State Governor Frank Murkowski's warm invitation, President Chen is expecting to enjoy the beautiful scenes of snow and to promote economic and trade ties between Taiwan and Alaska," Wu said.

Murkowski is now visiting Taiwan and on Monday the visiting governor was decorated with the Order of Propitious Clouds with Grand Cordon by Chen.

Chen has already made three diplomatic trips in the past three years to visit 15 allies in Central, and South America and Africa.

The Presidential Office had originally arranged for Chen to take his fourth overseas trip in late May to visit four allies in Central America and the Caribbean. The trip was postponed due to fears about the spread of SARS.

"The trip was shortened from around two weeks to one week, because there are too many domestic activities which could not be rescheduled," Wu said.

"The Presidential Office was also concerned about the the difficulties of landing the president's special chartered aircraft in those small airports of Taiwan's allies" Wu said.

"So the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested that the president could meet the leaders of those countries at the Panamanian anniversary celebrations," the president's spokesman said.

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