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President Tsai to visit Panama, Paraguay (update)

2016/06/14 13:44

CNA file photo

Taipei, June 14 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) will embark on her first overseas trip as president on June 24 and return on July 2, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Tuesday.

Tsai will visit Panama and Paraguay, both diplomatic allies of Taiwan, and make transit stops in Miami on her way to Panama and in Los Angeles on her way back to Taiwan, Deputy Foreign Minister Javier Ching-shan Hou (侯清山) said at a news conference at the Presidential Office.

Tsai is scheduled to attend the inauguration ceremony of the expanded Panama Canal on June 26, according to Hou.

Panama invited Tsai in March to attend the ceremony, while Paraguay President Horacio Cartes invited Tsai to visit his country when he was in Taiwan in May to attend her inauguration ceremony, Hou said.

Tsai accepted the invitations to demonstrate how much Taiwan values international shipping and to deepen Taiwan's ties with its allies in Latin America, Hou said.

Panama has invited the leaders of some 70 countries to the opening of the expanded Panama Canal, and Hou said the presidents or prime ministers of about nine of the countries are expected to take part.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) was one of the leaders invited, but he will not attend.

An official with China's Ministry of Commerce who is responsible for foreign trade and international cooperation will be sent in place of Xi, Hou said, citing information provided by Panama.

In response to questions on how Tsai will interact with the Chinese official at the ceremony, Hou said "we will have spontaneous interaction, which means if the official comes to say hi, we will extend greetings in return."

While in Panama, Tsai will also hold a meeting with the country's president, Juan Carlos Varela, to discuss issues of mutual concern and other international issues, he said.

The president will also visit the container terminal owned in Panama by Evergreen Marine Corp., a Taiwanese company, he added.

Following the trip to Panama, Tsai will depart on June 27 for Paraguay, Taiwan's only diplomatic ally in South America.

There, Tsai will meet with her Paraguayan counterpart, give a speech at the parliament and check on bilateral cooperative projects, Hou said.

Tsai will leave Paraguay on June 30 and will transit in Los Angeles on her way back to Taiwan, Hou said.

Tsai will be joined on the trip by National Security Council Secretary-General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), Foreign Minister David Lee (李大維), other government officials, legislators and business representatives from the solar energy, textile and food industries, he said.

(By Sophia Yeh and Elaine Hou)ENDITEM/ls