Tue, Aug 31, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Chen starts diplomatic tour

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) last night departed on a seven-day visit to the nation's two diplomatic allies in Central America -- with a jam-packed schedule and itinerary that will test the stamina of his entire entourage.

The chartered plane carrying Chen will make refueling stops in Hawaii en route to Panama, where Chen will attend the inauguration ceremony of Panamanian president Martin Torrijos.

From Panama, Chen will fly to Belize for a less-than-24-hour visit, and then make a brief stop in Seattle before returning home early morning on Sept. 5.

Chen shortened his Central American tour by a day in order to return to oversee the nation's relief work in northern and central Taiwan, which was devastated by Typhoon Aere.

Because of the abbreviated schedule, he will not stay over in Hawaii or Seattle as originally planned.

Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General James Huang (黃志芳) said that overall, "traveling on the plane will account for approximately 43 hours in the president's diplomatic trip, with a total amount of about 83 hours for refueling stops in Hawaii, Seattle and visiting two of the nation's diplomatic allies in Central America."

Chen is expected to rub shoulders with other foreign dignitaries, including US Secretary of State Colin Powell, while attending the inauguration in Panama.

During a brief stop in Hawaii, Chen will visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, which commemorates the sacrifice made by the 2,390 US soldiers who lost their lives in the December 7, 1941, Japanese surprise attack -- half of them from the battleship USS Arizona.

In Hawaii and Seattle, Chen will attend banquets to be held in his honor by expatriates, and will meet with US politicians.

Members of his entourage include Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山), Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and Government Information Office Director-General Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍).

Taoyuan County Commissioner and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) member Chu Li-lun (朱立倫), originally a member of the entourage, decided yesterday not to go on the trip in order to stay and tackle damage caused in his area from Typhoon Aere flooding.

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