Fri, Dec 03, 2004 - Page 3 News List

South Pacific tour on Chen's agenda

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AFP

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is expected to make an inaugural tour of the nation's Pacific allies next year, Marshall Islands officials said yesterday.

The tour scheduled will be on the agenda when Marshall Islands President Kessai Note visits Taipei next week.

"We want the ROC president to visit. It's a matter of when his schedule allows it," said Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Gerald Zackios, who will accompany Note to Taipei.

The Marshall Islands, one of the 27 nations that recognizes Taiwan, established diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1998.

Zackios said Chen's visit is tentatively set for March or April and will also take in Taiwan's five other diplomatic allies in the Pacific -- Palau, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Chen's press secretary said that details of a Pacific tour have not been finalized.

"The president has voiced his desire to visit the South Pacific region, but the plan is still under evaluation. It is too early to say when and where the president will visit," he told Agence Presse France.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said yesterday that the ministry has been preparing for Note's visit, but he would not confirm whether or not Chen would make a Pacific tour.

"If there is such a trip, the Presidential Office will announce it in the due time," Lu told a press conference at the ministry.

The agenda for Note's visit will include discussions on Taiwanese funding for a Marshall Islands trust fund.

The Marshall Islands invested US$25 million to launch the fund earlier this year, while the US made an initial deposit of US$7 million and is to increase its contribution by US$500,000 every year through 2023.

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