Tue, May 19, 2009 - Page 3 News List

First lady to accompany Ma on state visit

RETINUETen local chiefs will be part of the delegation, nine of whom are from the KMT and one an independent. Altogether, 159 individuals will accompany Ma on the trip

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is scheduled to embark on a 10-day visit to Central America next Tuesday, for the first time accompanied by his wife, first lady Chow Mei-­ching (周美青), as well as local chiefs and a performance group.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Javier Hou (侯清山) told a press conference that Ma and the 159-person delegation would leave on May 26 and return on June 4. The main purpose will be to attend the inauguration of El Salvadoran president-elect Mauricio Funes on June 1.

Ma is scheduled to make a one-night stopover in Los Angeles on his way there and in Seattle on his way back. The trip will also take Ma to Belize and Guatemala.

Hou said Ma would not make any public appearances during his short stays in the US.

All activities will be conducted at his hotel, including meetings and phone conversations with friends and US officials. The ministry has arranged cultural and political events in Belize and Guatemala, including addresses to the two countries’ parliaments.

The ministry is still arranging bilateral meetings between Ma and leaders and representatives attending the inauguration in El Salvador. Honduran President President Jose Manuel Zelaya and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega have agreed to attend the talks.

Hou said that no special arrangement had been made for a meeting between Ma and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, adding that the two could nevertheless “meet accidentally.”

This will be the first time Chow accompanies Ma on a trip abroad since the president came into office. Hou said she will interact with her counterparts from the three allied countries and attend cultural and charity events.

Local heads, student representatives and college principals will also be part of the delegation.

Billing the trip as “grassroots diplomacy” and “academic diplomacy,” Hou said the arrangement was the brainchild of many persons rather than solely the ministry.

While local elections will be held at the end of the year, Hou dismissed speculation that it played any role in local chiefs’ participation in the trip.

Of the 10 local chiefs, seven are mayors and three are township or village wardens. All but one are from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). The only exception is an independent village warden.

Also on the list are Chiayi Mayor and KMT Vice Chairwoman Huang Ming-hui (黃敏惠) and KMT legislators Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), Justin Chou (周守訓) and Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑).

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