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June 24, 2017

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President back in Taiwan, says visit to allies was fruitful

TAIPEI--President Ma Ying-jeou returned to Taiwan early Thursday after a "fruitful" eight-day tour of three allies in Africa and Central America.

The trip solidified Taiwan's ties and cooperation with the allies and also his policy of pursing "viable diplomacy," the president said after arriving at Taoyuan International Airport.

Ma's ninth overseas trip since taking office in May 2008 took him to Sao Tome and Principe, Burkina Faso and Honduras, where he attended the inauguration of President Juan Orlando Hernandez on Jan. 27.

The heads of state of those allies pledged continued support for Taiwan's meaningful participation in international organizations and their activities, he said in remarks to reporters and officials at the airport.

During his 24-hour layover in Los Angeles before flying back to Taiwan, Ma said, he used every minute available to speak on the phone to 20 U.S. current and former politicians, including senior members of Congress, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Ma departed Jan. 23 for the trip, which also included a brief stop in Frankfurt, Germany on his way to Africa.

In his remarks, the president mentioned the refueling stop in Germany and the fact that his presidential jet flew over Russia, a first for a Taiwan president. He called them "arrangements needed to save time and trouble."

"There is no need to read too much into it but it does mean that we have quite a few friends in the world and it allows us to go out," Ma said.

Returning on New Year's Eve on the lunar calendar, the president will not rest but will have a full day of schedule that includes visits with the military and the police, a dinner with his mother and finally an annual pilgrimage to a temple in New Taipei to offer prayers for the New Year, officials said.

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