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Tuesday, September 02 2014 @ 10:08 PM EDT

Ma to visit South American allies

Panama News Taiwan News - President Ma Ying-jeou is planning visits to Taiwanese allies El Salvador and Panama in June and July, Foreign Minister Francisco Ou told reporters yesterday. Ma would travel to the Latin American nations to attend presidential inauguration ceremonies, Ou said. His ministry will leave it up to Ma to decide whether the president should make two separate trips, or attend both ceremonies during one longer trip. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also still evaluating the need to hold a summit conference with Taiwan's allies in the South Pacific, originally scheduled for the second half of this year in the Solomon Islands. If Ma could meet all the heads of the state in the area, the conference would have some use, even though the absence of any important topics could make it superfluous, Ou said. (more)

Taiwan only has 23 official diplomatic allies, mostly small or impoverished nations in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The Vatican is its only European ally.

El Salvador has long been a reliable ally, though occasionally reports have appeared suggesting that Panama might switch recognition to Beijing considering China's growing economy and its interests in the Panama Canal.

Since Ma took office last May, he has been trying to achieve what he calls a "diplomatic truce," calling a halt to the past competition between Taiwan and China for allies, often by promising money for development and other projects.

China has not officially responded to Ma's offer, but no allies have switched sides since he took office.

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