MOFA keeps quiet on visit by Ma to African diplomatic allies

By Joseph Yeh, The China Post

The China Post–The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday said it has not yet received orders to plan a trip for President Ma Ying-jeou to Taiwan’s African allies, downplaying media speculation that Ma will embark on the tour next month for the first time since taking office in 2008. “The ministry will inform the public of the trip in greater detail once preparations have been completed and details of the visit have been confirmed,” said MOFA spokesman James Chang in a regular press briefing yesterday.

Chang’s comments came after the Chinese-language Apple Daily yesterday said Ma will travel to Taiwan’s four allies in Africa — Gambia, Burkina Faso, Swaziland, San Tome and Principe — at the end of March. Asked to comment, Chang refused to confirm dates of the visit, saying that the itinerary listed in the report was the one planned for last year. He said however, that the MOFA believes Ma’s state visit to Africa, if realized, could further boost Taiwan’s ties with its diplomatic allies. The upcoming state visits were originally set to take place 2011 but were called off at the last minute due to political turbulence caused by the Jasmine Revolution, according to the report. At the time, officials at the Presidential Office said Ma’s decision to cancel the visit was because he wished to focus on internal affairs. Ma has visited Taiwan’s allies in Central and Southern America, the Caribbean region, as well as to those in the South Pacific, since he took office four years ago. He has not visited Africa. Former Premier and current Vice President-elect Wu Den-yih led a delegation to Burkina Faso on Ma’s behalf in December 2010. Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) also visited the country in August, 2011 for its 50th independence anniversary.