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May 27, 2017

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Ma to visit allies in Africa, C. America

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou will be visiting Taiwan's African ally Sao Tome and Principe, as well as Honduras around the end of January.

The president will be heading to Sao Tome and Principe on Jan. 23, the country being the only ally Ma hasn't paid a visit to during his five years in power; and is slated to attend the inauguration ceremony for Honduras' president-elect, Juan Orlando Hernandez, as a friendly diplomatic move. Hernandez was elected last November.

The visits to the two nations are dubbed the "Sao-Hon Project," the theme being to "cooperate with the same mind and benefit each other." Deputy Foreign Minister Simon Ko (柯森耀) said that the project aims to strengthen Taiwan's ties with both countries, and for the three to benefit from their cooperation and understanding of each other. "The trip will last eight days, the total flight time being 60 hours," added Ko.

According to the Presidential Office, Ma had already slated a visit to Sao Tome and Principe during a previous visit to Africa in 2012, but the intention had fallen flat as the country's President Manuel Pinto da Costa had not been available to greet him, and had hoped for Ma to choose another time to visit.

Sao Tome Premier Gabriel da Costa had visited Taiwan last November, and had presented a letter from his president to invite Ma for a visit. Ma had then asked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to arrange a future diplomatic tour, in order to complete a visit to Taiwan's African allies.

Ma had made a transit stop in Los Angeles after visiting Taiwan's South American allies last year, but the stop had been short as he was hurrying back to Taiwan after a typhoon hit the island. Ma and his delegation are slated to attend unfinished business in Los Angeles after returning from Honduras.

According to MOFA, the delegation's members will include Foreign Minister David Lin, government officials from agencies that participate in Taiwan's cooperative projects with its allies, as well as lawmakers and representatives from the business and academic communities.

MOFA is still planning Ma's itinerary, and is arranging for a chartered plane with airline companies, said Ko. "We hope for the trip ... to be comfortable, safe, convenient and dignified," Ko noted.

First lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青) will not be accompanying Ma on his diplomatic trips to the Honduras and Sao Tome and Principe, said Ko.

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