Sun, May 07, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Ma remains low key on Singapore, Australia trip


Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) left yesterday for Singapore where he is likely to meet former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀).

"The purpose of my trip is to promote municipal exchanges ... I will also visit old friends," the Taipei mayor said when asked if he would meet Lee.

Media reports said Ma was likely to meet Lee to discuss cross-strait ties and may also see Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍).

After a two-day stay in Singapore, Ma will fly to Sydney and later Canberra to promote Taipei's trade ties with Australia before returning home on May 11, his office said.

On Friday Ma asked people not to compare his status while traveling abroad to that of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Ma said when he recently visited the US, he was given high-profile treatment mainly because he was an opposition leader, not an official of the central government.

In that capacity, it was more convenient for US hosts to arrange meetings in Washington between him and senior US officials, he said, noting that Chen, as head of the government, cannot even visit the US capital because the two countries do not have diplomatic ties.

Since both Chen and Ma will be abroad over the next few days, the KMT leader said foreign friends will show an interest in Taipei's cross-strait policy, a topic on which he expected to be asked about.

"Exactly because of that, I do hope the media will not try to compare my foreign visits to those of the president," he said.

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