Tue, Apr 24, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Foreign minister on defensive over Ma’s African trip

By Su Yung-yao  /  Staff reporter

Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) yesterday said media had misrepresented the main aims of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) recent 12-day visit to African allies.

Yang defended Ma’s trip as it came under attack from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators at the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee meeting.

DPP legislators Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃), Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) and Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said Ma’s behavior on the trip, such as competing with African heads of state in a pushup contest or soccer games, turned diplomacy into a circus.

Ma “had several meetings to discuss administrative affairs scheduled on the trip,” but the media did not report on those, Yang said, adding that the casual interaction between heads of state would help “increase relations.”

DPP Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) asked whether the sudden announcement by Sao Tome and Principe that its president could not meet with Ma because of a planned state visit of his own would damage ties between the two nations. Yang said he guaranteed it would not -affect diplomatic ties.

Asked whether Ma had telephoned Sao Tomean President Manuel Pinto da Costa, Yang said that he had not. He also confirmed that Pinto da Costa would not attend Ma’s second-term inauguration on May 20.

Lin said that in comparison with how former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) met government officials in countries that were not diplomatic allies, Ma’s stopover in Mumbai, India — when he did not meet anyone — was not a diplomatic breakthrough.

Not only was there no certain diplomatic policy concerning India, the nation’s formerly multilateral interaction with African states has become a one-on-one issue, which shows that Taiwan’s diplomacy is regressing, Lin said.

People First Party Legislator Thomas Lee (李桐豪) also criticized Ma’s performance, saying it had failed to inspire Africans to show more support for Taiwan.

Meanwhile, regarding Ma’s May 20 inauguration, Yang said that top politicians from abroad would attend. Five heads of state and 40 delegations, totaling 223 individuals, have signed up for the ceremony so far, Yang said.

However, the names of the invited guests are being kept private for the time being, Yang told Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiang Chi-chen (江啟臣).

Yang said US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who also serves as chairperson of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, would be leading a delegation to the celebration.

A “heavyweight who has access to top officials” in the US was also invited, Yang said, without elaborating.

In related news, the Foreign -Affairs and National Defense Committee decided to pass a resolution increasing housing subsidies for overseas personnel following the murder of 55-year-old Julia Ou (區美珍) in the Dominican Republic on April 17. The committee agreed that the low housing subsidy granted to overseas personnel often forced them to live in areas where security is less readily available.

Ou, a secretary involved in overseas compatriot affairs in Santo Domingo, was stabbed to death in her residence.

Translated by Jake Chung, staff writer additional reporting by CNA

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