Thu, Mar 28, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Ma welcomes Marshall Islands President Loeak

VIGOROUS INTERACTIONS:Ma Ying-jeou lauded ties with the Marshall Islands, dismissed criticism of his gift to the pope and called for cooperation from China internationally

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporter

A military honor guard lines up in front of the Chiang kai-shek Memorial Hall to welcome Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Sam Yeh, AFP

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said he expected diplomatic relations with the Marshall Islands to remain strong as he welcomed Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak.

The welcoming ceremony was held in the morning at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei with a military salute. Although a magnitude 6.1 earthquake rocked Taiwan during the ceremony, it did not affect the event.

Speaking at the ceremony, Ma said the two nations have maintained strong relations since establishing ties in 1998, and expressed his hope that the Marshall Islands, a member of the UN and several global organizations, would continue voicing support for Taiwan’s participation in international organizations.

Later, while presiding over the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Standing Committee meeting, the president defended his recent trip to the Vatican as a successful diplomatic overture and dismissed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators’ criticism that his gift to the new pope — a Franz vase embossed with the design of a magpie — was inappropriate because magpies are viewed as a bad omen in Europe.

Ma said the Vatican’s top envoy to Taiwan, Monsignor Paul Russell, had assured him and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the Holy See did not see any problem with the gift and that the pope would accept the gift with gratitude, he said.

Ma lauded the ministry’s efforts to expand the nation’s international space as he listened to a briefing by Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin’s (林永樂) about the Vatican trip during the committee meeting.

He dismissed concerns about Beijing’s pressure on the Holy See to sever its ties with Taiwan, but said that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should support each other in the international community.

“We should still wait and see if the vicious interactions of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait in the international community can become more positive … We should support and tolerate each other to maintain peaceful and long-lasting relations,” he said.

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