Speculation is mounting that Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) intends to run for president next year since the Taipei City Government confirmed that he is to visit Israel next month and the US in March.
The city government last week confirmed that Ko would visit the US on March 16 to 24, traveling to four major cities on the east coast, after announcing late last month that he would be going, without giving any details.
Ko said in a Facebook Live stream on Friday afternoon that he would be visiting New York, Boston, Atlanta and Washington.
The main purpose would be to visit local biotechnology firms and start-ups, as well as to meet with Taiwanese students and residents there, he added.
“New York City remains the most diverse city in the world — after all, it’s called the ‘Big Apple’ — so we Taiwanese, especially Taipei City residents, who are so proud of our democracy, freedom, diversity and openness, should go visit a truly diverse city,” he said.
Ko said that Boston has a strong technology industry and is also one of the US’ largest biotech hubs.
Taipei can learn how to grow its biotech industry, he said, adding that this year also marks the 40th anniversary of Taipei’s sister cityhood with Atlanta.
“As for Washington, it is the nation’s capital and the location of both the [US] Senate and [the US] House [of Representatives], so I will visit to say hello,” he said, adding that there are also many think tanks and political groups based in Washington.
Ko also announced in his live stream that he would begin a four-day visit to Israel on Feb. 23, saying that he was invited by the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei to attend Israel’s International Conference of Mayors.
Israel has a population of only about 9 million people, but has impressive information security and industrial innovation, Ko said, adding that he would like to “learn how the nation has survived so well for so long in such a difficult environment.”
Ko’s overseas visits have been interpreted by political pundits as attempts to “test the waters” before announcing a bid to run for president, as several past presidential candidates visited the US before announcing their campaigns.
Asked yesterday whether the results of today’s legislative by-election in Taipei might affect a potential run for president, Ko said: “Let’s not talk about 2020 anymore. It seems like everyone is forcing me to run for president.”
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