Ma arrives in Big Apple on transit stop


NEW YORK — President Ma Ying-jeou arrived in New York Sunday on a transit stop en route to a five-nation diplomatic tour that will cover Paraguay and Taiwan’s four allies in the Caribbean region.

The president was greeted by American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt and Taiwan’s representative to the United States, King Pu-tsung, at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

He later traveled with a police motorcade escort and diplomatic security personnel to his hotel, where he was welcomed by more than 100 Taiwanese expatriates.

After a short rest at the hotel, Ma attended a dinner with 300 Taiwanese expatriates living in the Northeastern United States, including Oscar-winning director Ang Lee.

A group of around 30 people, however, staged a protest outside the venue against the recent service trade agreement between Taiwan and China and to demand medical parole for former President Chen Shui-bian.

It is Ma’s first transit stop in New York en route to an official visit of Taiwan’s allies. He will remain here until Aug. 13 before heading to Haiti, the first stop on his international tour that will also take him to Paraguay, Saint Christopher and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

While in New York, Ma will meet House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce and the committee’s ranking member Eliot Engel.

He is also scheduled to visit the site of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and New York University, where he once studied.

During his flight to New York, Ma told reporters he had lived in the U.S. city for two and a half years and has many friends there.

It has been more than seven years since he last visited his alma mater, Ma said, adding that it brings back sweet memories of falling in love with his wife Chow Mei-ching.

It is Ma’s eighth foreign trip since he first took office as president in 2008.

At the end of the tour, he would have visited all of Taiwan’s 23 diplomatic allies, except for Sao Tome and Principe, he said.

Ma said flexible diplomacy means more than just avoiding vicious competition with mainland China in the international community. More importantly, the government has been working to consolidate and enhance its relations with its diplomatic allies, he added.

Thanks to such efforts, as many as 133 countries are now granting Taiwanese nationals visa-free or visa-on-arrival treatment, most of which do not have diplomatic ties with Taiwan, he noted.