Tue, Aug 08, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Foreign minister to visit Panama in bid to cement ties

By Chang Yun-ping and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) will soon embark on a trip to Panama for a working meeting with the country's diplomatic missions in the region, the ministry said yesterday, in a trip seen as a move to cement ties with diplomatic allies in Latin America following Chad's decision to switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing on Saturday.

Ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said yesterday that Huang's trip was still being planned and that his exact itinerary would be announced at a later date.

He stressed the trip was intended purely as a routine working meeting in the region in response to media reports that the minister was traveling to further cement diplomatic relations with the central American ally, whose relations with Taiwan had been rumored to be unstable.

The cutting of diplomatic ties with Chad last Saturday left Taiwan with a total of 24 diplomatic allies, half of which are in the Central and South America.

Huang said on Sunday during a press conference that "the ministry will do everything possible to cement ties with all our allies" to fend off a possible domino effect following Chad's siding with China.

Meanwhile, the ministry spokesman also confirmed yesterday that Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya, who was scheduled to visit Taiwan starting tomorrow, had canceled the trip due to an internal strike in his country.

Zelaya's cancelation prompted speculation of weakened bilateral relations.

Lu said Zelaya had to call off the trip because of a nationwide strike by his country's teachers.

This is the second time Zelaya has postponed his visit to Taiwan. The first occasion came in the middle of last month when the Honduran leader claimed the trip would clash with a summit meeting of the Central American Integration System.

Also yesterday, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) met with a high-ranking Panamanian judicial official in Taipei.

The president discussed the paramount importance of judicial independence and transparency while meeting with the president of Panama's Supreme Court of Justice, Graciela Dixon, at the Presidential Office.

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