Tue, Aug 15, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Chen says he wants to take a trip to Palau

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday said that he was planning to visit Palau next month for a summit with the nation's six Pacific island allies amid calls for his resignation at home.

"I hope we can go to Palau together early next month," Chen said in a meeting with the Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare at the Presidential Office yesterday morning. "The summit is being held in Palau this year, but I hope it will be held in Solomon Islands next year."

Sogavare, who is leading a 12-person delegation, arrived in Taipei on Friday for a six-day visit. It is Sogavare's third visit to the country. He came in September 1997 as Solomons' finance minister and October 2000 as the prime minister.

In addition to Chen, Sogavare visited Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday.

Chen visited the Solomon Islands in January last year, making him the nation's first president to visit the Southern Pacific island state in the past two decades.

Chen's visit next month comes at a sensitive time, as former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) is planning to stage a sit-in protest on Sept. 9 if he succeeds in collecting the support of 1 million people.

The Democratic Action Alliance (民主行動聯盟) is also planning to officially commence its national anti-Chen Shui-bian campaign by taking to the streets the same day.

Against this backdrop, Taiwan will hold its first-ever summit with its six Pacific island allies in Palau on Sept. 4.

The Pacific Islands have become a battleground for diplomatic recognition between Taiwan and China. The summit between Taipei and its allies follows a similar meeting between Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) and Beijing's allies in Fiji in May.

The six Pacific island states which recognize Taiwan are the Marshall Islands, Palau, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati and Nauru.

In May, many speculated that diplomatic relations with the Solomon Islands were at risk, when riots in the southern Pacific country forced a parliamentary election.

Chen yesterday expressed appreciation to a pledge Sogavare made in the run-up to the election that he would maintain and strengthen diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Chen also voiced gratitude to the Sogavare administration's staunch support for Taiwan's bid to join international organizations such as UN and WHO over the years.

As Sogavare is planning to lead a delegation to next month's UN Assembly, Chen asked Sogavare to take advantage of the opportunity to speak in favor of Taiwan's bid to join the global organization.

The nation established diplomatic relations with the Solomon Islands in 1983. Chen yesterday said that he personally was satisfied with the relations between the two countries and hoped to see bilateral ties further strengthened based on existing foundations.

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