The Presidential Office declined to comment yesterday on a media report that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will be flying through Russian airspace on his way to visit allies in Africa at the end of this month.
Presidential Office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) said only that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is still arranging the itinerary of the tour, which is to take Ma to two diplomatic allies in Africa — Burkina Faso and the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe — and to Honduras in Central America.
The Chinese-language United Daily News reported yesterday that Taipei has gained Moscow’s approval for Ma’s plane to traverse Russian airspace before reaching a transit spot, rumored to be Frankfurt, Germany. If true, it would mark the first time a Republic of China president has flown over Russia for a diplomatic visit, the newspaper said.
Russian approval was made possible only after Taipei notified Beijing and obtained its understanding, the paper said, citing “close ties” between China and Russia.
Flying north via Russia would be a relatively quicker route to Africa than the one used by presidents in the past, which takes them south over India and the Middle East, the daily added.
Whichever route he takes, Ma is scheduled to set off on Jan. 23 to Sao Tome and Principe, followed by Burkina Faso and then Honduras, before returning to Taiwan on Jan. 30.
In Honduras, he is to attend the inauguration of Honduran president-elect Juan Orlando Hernandez.
Sao Tome and Principe is the only one of Taiwan’s 22 diplomatic allies that Ma has not yet visited during his nearly six years in office.