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President's transit stop in New York 'smooth:' AIT chief

2013/08/13 21:13:28

New York, Aug. 13 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou's transit in New York "went smoothly" and a news report claiming that his treatment was downgraded by the United States is "absolutely not true," a U.S. official said Tuesday.

On the other hand, Raymond Burghardt, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), disputed another news report saying that Ma "could do everything he wanted" during his 37-hour stopover.

"That was somewhat of a misstatement," Burghardt said. "We let him do everything he asked to do. Everything he asked to do, he was able to do."

The AIT is the institution that handles U.S. relations with Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties.

Burghardt spoke to reporters as he arrived at Ma's hotel in Manhattan early Tuesday to see the president off on the next leg of his trip. Ma later departed for Haiti, the first stop on a five-nation tour of South America and the Caribbean.

Burghardt said Ma's transit stop allowed him to get to know more about the president.

"It was a wonderful opportunity for me personally to get to know the president better because for the first time, he was in a place that meant a lot to him," said Burghardt.

Ma earned his master's degree in law in 1976 from the New York University School of Law, and it was during his time there that he met his future wife.

It was Ma's first transit in New York since he became president in 2008. As Taiwan's head of state, he is not allowed under U.S. policy to visit the United States itself, but can make brief stopovers in U.S. cities on a case-by-case basis.

In Taipei, Taiwan's former representative to the United States Stephen Chen said the transit demonstrated a major improvement in mutual trust between Taiwan and the United States.

"Ma's treatment shows that the U.S. had full confidence that President Ma would not be a troublemaker," Chen said.

The previous stopover by a president of Taiwan took place in November 2003, when then-President Chen Shui-bian's remarks and activities irked Beijing and were criticized by some U.S. officials as provocative.

(By Tony Liao, Angela Tsai and Jay Chen)
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