Fri, Jan 07, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Chen's Pacific tour settles for Palau and the Solomons

AFP AND CNA , MAJURO, MARSHALL ISLANDS, AND TAIPEI

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) yesterday confirmed that President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) trip to allies in the South Pacific at the end of the month will include only Palau and the Solomon Islands.

Mark Chen said the president had also wanted to visit Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands.

But to ensure the president will be back on Feb. 1 for when the new legislature convenes and the Cabinet is reshuffled, changes have been made to the itinerary. Chen Shui-bian will now visit the three South Pacific nations in the second half of this year.

The schedule at the end of the month had also been shortened for the same reasons, Presidential Office spokesman Chen Wen-tsung (陳文宗) said yesterday.

It was originally reported that the president would embark on a week-long visit to the South Pacific. But in view of the political situation at home, Chen Shui-bian had decided to shorten the trip, Chen Wen-tsung said.

While details of the trip are yet to be finalized, he said the Presidential Office would make the president's itinerary public once the preparations and details were complete.

The Marshall Islands had been penciled in for a Jan. 29 stopover, and Marshall Islands President Kessai Note wanted to be personally in charge of planning for the visit, said Taiwan's ambassador to the Marshall Islands, Chen Lien-gene (陳連軍).

Note leaves this week for a fortnight of meetings in Mauritius and Japan which would not allow him time to do this, the ambassador said.

Note and Chen earlier discussed the visit during a telephone conversation earlier this week, and alternative dates for a Marshall Islands visit were under consideration, he added.

Chen is still expected to attend the inauguration ceremony of the president of Palau.

The officials said that Chen would leave on Jan. 27 to attend the inauguration ceremony of Paluan President Tommy Rem-engesau, Jr. the next day.

They said a team was currently in the South Pacific arranging for the visit.

Most South Pacific airports cannot accommodate large aircraft, so China Airlines will use a 737 passenger plane for the trip.

Additional reporting by Huang Tai-lin

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