Tsai begins first overseas trip as president

Tsai begins first overseas trip as president

Taipei, June 24 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen embarked Friday on a nine-day trip to Panama and Paraguay, two of Taiwan's diplomatic allies in Latin America, saying her main goal is to lift Taiwan's international visibility.

Before boarding a special China Airlines flight on her first overseas trip since taking office on May 20, Tsai said Taiwan is facing a challenging diplomatic environment but is determined to make unlimited connections with the rest of world.

On her trip to Latin America, she said, she will seek to interact with leaders of Taiwan's diplomatic allies at the inauguration ceremony of the expanded Panama Canal and let them know that Taiwan is a trustworthy friend.

Noting that many Taiwanese ships usually ply the Panama Canal, Tsai said she thinks most Taiwanese will be proud of the fact that she is attending the ceremony. The president said she will also reassure overseas-based Taiwanese diplomats, businesspeople and non-governmental groups that her government will work with them to improve Taiwan's international relations.

As part of her international relations efforts, Tsai said she will seek to strengthen trade links with countries in Latin America. Her delegation includes several Taiwanese business representatives who are looking to build partnerships with their counterparts in Latin America, she said.

The special China Airlines flight carrying the president will make a transit stop in Miami, where Tsai is expected to meet with U.S.-based Taiwanese pitcher Wei-Yin Chen of the Miami Marlins. Tsai's first stop on U.S. soil as president comes one day after the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed a resolution that reaffirmed the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances as the foundation of relations between the U.S. and Taiwan. On June 25, Tsai is scheduled to arrive in Panama, where she will meet with a U.S. congressional delegation that is attending the opening ceremony of the expanded Panama Canal.

Tsai is also expected to visit the canal's Miraflores Locks later in the day, and on Sunday will visit the Taiwan-based Evergreen Group's container terminal in Colon, hold meetings with leaders from other countries that have diplomatic ties with Taiwan, and attend a luncheon with Taiwan Scholarship recipients in Panama.

Later that day, she will meet with Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez before attending the Panama Canal ceremony. During the ceremony, Tsai will have the opportunity to converse with leaders of other countries attending the event, the Presidential Office said.

On June 27, Tsai will call on Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela at his office before attending a summit and ministerial talks between Taiwan and Panama. The two countries are expected to sign an agreement on immigration affairs and cooperation on the fight against human trafficking. Later in the day, Tsai is scheduled to attend a state banquet hosted by Varela before leaving for Paraguay.

In Asuncion, her itinerary includes paying a call on President Horacio Cartes on June 28, addressing Paraguay's Congress, and meeting with the president of the Senate, Mario Abdo Benitez. She will also attend a state banquet hosted by Cartes and attend the opening ceremony of Taiwan's newly built embassy in Asuncion. The president is scheduled to meet with representatives of two Taiwan-based Buddhist organizations in Paraguay later in the day before hosting a dinner party for leaders of Taiwanese compatriot groups in the South American country.

On June 29, Tsai will meet with Paraguayan recipients of Taiwan scholarships for breakfast and then visit a public school. In the afternoon, she will head to a fertilizer production factory that was established under a Taiwan-Paraguay technology cooperation program and attend the launch of an orchid breeding project. She will visit Paraguay's central bank later in the day.

Tsai will depart Paraguay on June 30 for Los Angeles, where she will stay overnight before heading home to Taiwan on July 1. (By Sophia Yeh, Rita Cheng, Tony Liao and Elaine Hou)