The US government has not given final approval for President Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) to transit through two west coast cities en route to Paraguay and the Dominican Republic next month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.
MOFA spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) said Washington had not finalized approval of Ma’s proposed itinerary to stay overnight in Los Angeles on the way to the two countries and to transit briefly at San Francisco on the return trip.
On Tuesday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) said Ma would make his first overseas state visits from Aug. 12 to Aug. 19 to attend the inauguration ceremonies for the presidents-elect of Paraguay and the Dominican Republic on Aug. 15 and Aug. 16 respectively.
“Stopping over in the US would be nothing but a simple transit,” Chen said.
The goal of the US transits is to strengthen mutual trust between Taipei and Washington, which took a battering under the past administration, he said.
In response to reports that Ma had planned to make an appearance in New York, Chen said the government had not asked the US to allow Ma to make any stops on the east coast.
The US bars high-ranking Taiwanese officials from visiting Washington. All visits to the US by senior Taiwanese officials are adjudicated on a case by case basis on the principles of “safety, comfort, convenience and dignity.”
Ma will forego traveling in a private jet and is scheduled instead to take a regular China Airlines passenger flight to and from the US, MOFA said.
Ma and his entourage, which will not include the first lady, will switch to a charter flight for the trip from the US to Paraguay and the Dominican Republic, with a refueling stop in Panama.
Chen said the ministry was in the process of scheduling meetings between Ma and senior Panamanian officials.
Meanwhile, the Presidential Office said yesterday they had not received any requests from Washington to restrict Taiwanese media accompanying Ma from covering Ma’s transit stops in the US.
Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) told the press conference that it was established practice during former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) two terms for reporters accompanying him on overseas trips to be barred from reporting on the president’s activities while on US soil.
In response to questions about security for the president on a commercial airliner, Wang said the National Security Bureau had concluded it would be safe. The same arrangement had been used in the past for trips abroad by the vice president and premier, he said.
The Presidential Office will do its best to keep any inconvenience to other passengers from the extra security to a minimum, he said.
Wang dismissed media reports that passengers boarding the same plane as Ma would be required to check luggage one day in advance.
Wang said that in the past, official delegations have included hundreds of people and taken hours to check in luggage, but the Presidential Office would restrict the number of people accompanying Ma.
The security bureau will also make sure that the commercial jets are fully equipped in terms of communications equipment to accomodate the president and reporters’ needs, Wang said.
Wang dismissed reports claiming that China Airlines had closed bookings for Ma’s flights because the president’s would be on board, saying that bookings had been closed because the flights were full.