Minister of National Defense Yen Ming (嚴明) was forced to change flight plans from Swaziland to Burkina Faso after South Africa denied his request to make a transit stop in the country, a diplomatic source said yesterday.
The diplomatic source confirmed that there had been pressure from Beijing on Pretoria not to allow a second transit by Yen through its territory after China learned that Yen had earlier transited through the country to Swaziland, as reported in the Chinese-language Liberty Times, the Taipei Times’ sister paper.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had sent Yen as his envoy to attend the birthday celebration of Swaziland’s King Mswati III on April 24. The delegation led by Yen then paid a visit to Burkina Faso on the return trip to celebrate 20 years of diplomatic ties.
According to the Liberty Times, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs arranged a charter flight for the delegation to fly directly from Swaziland to Burkina Faso after it was informed at short notice that the scheduled stopover in South Africa would not be allowed.
The Liberty Times reported the charter flight was “costly.”
In response to reporters’ questions about the report yesterday, foreign ministry spokesperson Anna Kao (高安) did not confirm or deny whether China had been involved.
Given there is no direct flight from Swaziland to Burkina Faso, a possible plan all along was that the delegation would travel to Burkina Faso from Swaziland by charter flight, Kao said.
The ministry has different plans in place in relation to overseas travel for officials and it decides on a final option after everything is considered, Kao said, adding that the use of a charter flight in this case was to ensure the delegation’s safety and convenience.
Swaziland, Burkina Faso, and Sao Tome and Principe are the only three countries in Africa with which Taiwan still has diplomatic relations.
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