President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is slated to visit Palau at the end of this month and could also stop over at some of the nation's allies in the South Pacific region, officials said yesterday.
The trip, which many suspect will span over Feb. 1 -- the date on which the Cabinet will resign and start anew before newly-elected legislators are sworn in. Many have speculated that the president will announce the new premier and the new Cabinet before he departs on his trip.
Adding to the speculation, Kaohsiung City Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) was summoned to a meeting with Chen at the Presidential Office yesterday morning. In order to attend the meeting with the president in Taipei, Hsieh canceled a meeting with Kaohsiung and Pingtong commissioners.
Although some local media outlets predict that Hsieh is a likely candidate for the premiership, Hsieh has kept a low profile on the matter and brushed off the speculation.
While Chen kept the media guessing as to who would likely be in the new Cabinet and in what position, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) yesterday revealed the president's planned visit to Taiwan's diplomatic allies in the South Pacific.
A local Chinese-language newspaper yesterday reported that Chen will depart on Jan. 27 for Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Solomon Islands, with a stopover in Fiji, which has formal diplomatic relations with China.
Chen will attend Tommy Remengesau Jr's inauguration as president of Palau on Jan. 28, the report said.
Asked by reporters about the details of the trip, the foreign affairs minister yesterday said Chen's visit to Palau and other South Pacific allies at the end of this month "is almost certain."
Noting that Chen has long expressed his desire to visit Taiwan's diplomatic allies in the South Pacific, Presidential Office spokesman Chen Wen-tsung (陳文宗) said yesterday the relevant agencies had since been pushing for such a trip.
A team of officials was sent to the South Pacific to prepare for the president's arrival, said Chen Wen-tsung, adding that the Presidential Office will make public the president's itinerary once all preparations and details are complete and finalized.
In related news, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) is also planning to take a trip soon. She is slated to lead a tour composed of business leaders and economic advisers to visit El Salvador and Nicaragua next month.
Aside from the purpose of inspecting the region as a potential source of investment for Taiwanese firms, the vice president will also attend the Democratic Pacific Union's (DPU) regional meeting in El Salvador during her planned eight-day trip.
The DPU, which is Lu's brainchild, was formally formed last year with the aim of facilitating communication between Taiwan's allies in Central American and Asian countries, as well as promoting democracy, freedom and human rights.
At a press conference yesterday, Premier Yu Shyi-kun said he knew nothing about Chen's planned overseas trip and remained tight-lipped about when he will dissolve the Cabinet.
"I don't know exactly when it'll happen, but the Central Personnel Administration is still studying possible dates," Yu said.
"One thing I'm sure of, however, is that it won't happen until after the Legislative Yuan concludes its last session on Jan. 21."
When asked about whether Hsieh would make a good premier, Yu said he was confident that Hsieh would do a good job in any position, given Hsieh's experience, educational background and ability.