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Taiwan defense minister to tour Central America and Caribbean, transit in U.S.

Invitation by Nicaraguan armed forces chief at origin of tour

Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan.

Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) will pass through New York and Los Angeles on his way to and from five Central American and Caribbean allies, officials said Tuesday.

Relations with the region have come under a closer spotlight after Panama switched ties to China last June, leaving Taiwan with only 20 official diplomatic allies and fears of a domino effect.

On the other hand, unofficial relations between the United States and Taiwan have grown closer, with Congress moving motions advocating mutual high-level defense visits and the administration approving a new weapons package.

Nevertheless, the Ministry of National Defense emphasized that Feng’s stopovers in the U.S. would be too short for him to meet any important personalities or to visit any special locations.

The main reason for the minister’s trip was an invitation by Nicaraguan armed forces chief General Julio Cesar Aviles Castillo to attend the celebrations for the 38th anniversary of what used to be known as the Sandinista People’s Army.

Feng will also visit Guatemala at the invitation of its defense minister, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and El Salvador between August 23 and September 8.

The ministry denied that his voyage was a “graduation trip” after media speculation that most defense ministers only went on foreign visits shortly before retiring. Feng has been listed as one of the most controversial and least popular members of the current Cabinet.