The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been trying to arrange meetings between President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and senior Panamanian leaders during the president’s refueling stop in Panama en route to Paraguay next month, officials said yesterday.
Ma is scheduled to make his first state visit from Aug. 12 to Aug. 19 to attend the inaugurations of Paraguayan president-elect Fernando Lugo and Dominican Republic president-elect Leonel Fernandez.
Ma will make a transit stop in Los Angeles, where he will stay for one night, before leaving for Paraguay, but will not stop overnight when transiting through San Francisco on his return trip, the ministry said in a press release last week.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) told the Central News Agency yesterday that the president’s charter flight would stop in Panama for refueling on the way from Los Angeles to Paraguay.
On the Dominican Republic to San Francisco leg, the flight is expected to refuel in another city in the US, Ou said, adding that the administration had yet to decide on a city.
Asked if Ma would meet Panamanian President Martin Torrijos during the refueling stop, a ministry official who declined to be identified said the government was working toward that goal.
The official said Panama would send one of its vice presidents to attend the inauguration of the Paraguayan president-elect.
Ou said the president had opted to take a commercial flight to the US West Coast before switching to a charter flight to Latin America because the president’s entourage is relatively small in size, consisting of fewer than 100 people.
Disagreeing with critics who think having the president take a commercial flight rather than a charter flight would undermine the nation’s dignity, Ou said such an arrangement was very “appropriate.”
Ou said that Taiwan’s representative office in the US had filed a request with the US State Department for Ma to transit in the US cities. The minister said the president would keep the transit stops simple and would not engage in any unrelated activities during the stops.
Asked about the issue on Thursday, State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said he had no information regarding the details of Ma’s plan, which would only be available when the State Department makes a formal announcement on the matter.
However, Gallegos said the US government would handle requests for transits by senior Taiwanese leaders in keeping with the unofficial nature of US-Taiwan relations and within the scope of existing longstanding policies.
“We are prepared to consider, on a case-by-case basis, requests for transits based on the criteria of safety, comfort, convenience and dignity of the traveler,” he said.