President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday defended the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ handling of his current Central America trip in the wake of the political upheaval in Honduras.
“Both the foreign ministry and national security agencies grasped the overall situation quickly and presented a backup plan after the situation worsened in Honduras,” Ma told reporters on his San Francisco-bound plane on his way to Panama.
Ma’s comments came after opposition lawmakers said the ministry should take responsibility for failing to provide Ma with up-to-date information about the political situation in Honduras and the ouster of Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, who has been exiled in Costa Rica.
Ma and first lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青) were scheduled to spend two days in Honduras during the trip, which is centered on the inauguration of Panamanian president-elect Ricardo Martinelli today. The Presidential Office announced the Honduran visit was canceled just hours before the presidential delegation left Taipei on Monday.
Ma said ties with Honduras would not be affected by the coup, and he would arrange to visit the country after it elects a new president in January.
American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) honorary chairman William Brown welcomed Ma and Chow at San Francisco airport on their arrival on Monday. The first couple later attended a private dinner party hosted by overseas Taiwanese groups.
A group of overseas Taiwanese waved national flags in front of the hotel to welcome Ma, while another group of overseas Taiwanese protested his visit.
Ma said he has visited seven allies since taking office last year to strengthen relations, including his Central American trip last month.
“What strengthened our relationships with allies was not checkbooks, but flexible diplomacy and practical measures,” he said.
Ma complemented Chow for receiving more coverage during last month’s trip, adding: “I should be grateful my wife can accompany me, and I should not complain or be jealous.”
While in Panama, Ma will hold talks with Martinelli on the development of bilateral relations, Ambassador Simon Ko (柯森耀) told the Central News Agency on Monday. Ko said Ma was to attend a state banquet hosted by outgoing Panamanian President Martin Torrijos last night and another one today.
Ma was scheduled to address the Panamanian parliament tomorrow, Ko said.
Ma will make a transit stop in Hawaii on his way back to Taiwan on Monday.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA