Tue, Aug 02, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Vice president to make two state visits

THIRTY-DAY WONDER:Chen Chien-jen will make two overseas trips in less than 30 days, but it is the second one, to the Vatican, that is expected to draw the most attention

By Chung Lee-hua  /  Staff reporter

Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) is to visit the Dominican Republic later this month and the Holy See next month, which would set a record for the frequency of state visits by the nation’s vice president.

Chen is scheduled to lead a delegation to the Aug. 16 inauguration of Dominican President Danilo Medina, who won re-election on May 15, and then take a second delegation to the Holy See, Taiwan’s only European diplomatic ally, to attend the canonization of Mother Teresa on Sept. 4, sources said.

This year’s budget for presidential trips is NT$125 million (US$3.95 million), but a NT$30 million budget deficit is expected as about NT$90 million was spent on President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) trip to Panama and Paraguay in June, while former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) trip to Belize and Guatemala in March cost about NT$60 million.

There are no more trips planned for Tsai this year and Chen’s visits will be short to reduce costs, the Presidential Office said.

The visit to the Dominican Republic will be seven days, from Aug. 13 to Aug. 19, with two transit stops in the US, while Chen is to stay four days in the Dominican Republic.

The Presidential Office said it would release an exact itinerary later this week.

Medina invited Tsai to attend his inauguration when the two met in Panama in June, but Tsai said she would send a high-level official in her stead.

Chen, a devout Catholic, is to double as honorary president of the Taipei Philharmonic Chamber Choir during his Vatican City trip. The choir was invited by the Sistine Chapel Choir to perform at the canonization ceremony.

Chen was made a knight of the Vatican-based Order of the Holy Sepulchre in 2010 and a knight of the Order of St Gregory the Great in 2013 in recognition of his efforts to fight SARS and his academic achievements.

Chen’s trip is highly anticipated amid reports that Pope Francis wants to settle a dispute with China this year over eight Beijing-ordained bishops that the Vatican views as illegitimate, which could pave the ways for some form of ties between the Holy See and China — which would deprive the Republic of China of its only European diplomatic ally.

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