Taiwan to invite senior Panama officials for visit

Taiwan to invite senior Panama officials for visit
Panama's President-elect Juan Carlos Varela addresses the audience during his inauguration in Panama City.

TAIPEI - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) plans to invite senior government officials from Taiwan's Central American ally Panama for visit to further solidify bilateral ties, Foreign Minister David Lin said.

Lin, however, did not disclose further details on if the "senior" Panama official he mentioned is Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, who was recently sworn in to the presidency this July.

The minister made the remarks during a gathering with local media on Thursday when he was asked to comment on bilateral ties following Varela's recent reported remarks that hinted his country would like to establish closer ties with China.

According to a Chinese-language BBC report released online last Sunday, Varela attended an overseas Chinese community-organised dinner party in Panama City on Sept. 12 to send off two Panamanian officials that will be posted to Panama's trade offices in Beijing and Hong Kong.

During his address, Varela had expressed hope that the new chief for the Panama-China Trade Development Office will soon be promoted to be Panama's "ambassador to China," a remark that signifies his wish to "normalize" relations with Beijing, the BBC report said.

Asked to comment, Lin said the report has misquoted President Varela's comments.

Varela attended the party because the new chief for the Panama-China Trade Development Office was his assistant during his previous tenures as foreign minister and vice president.

The Panamanian leader was not saying that the chief will become Panama's ambassador to China. What he meant was that he wishes the young diplomat could one day become "a Panamanian ambassador" to foreign countries in years to come, according to Lin.

"It was only meant to encourage his (Varela's) former assistant," the minister noted.

Lin reaffirmed Taiwan's diplomatic relations with Panama. The robust bilateral ties are exemplified by frequent visits between high-ranking officials, he noted.

President Ma Ying-jeou previously visited the Central American ally this July to attend Varela's inauguration.

The R.O.C. government has maintained official diplomatic ties with Panama for over a century.

To enhance trade ties with China, the Panamanian government in 1996 established the Panama-China Trade Development Office to deal with commercial, cultural, technological, scientific and administrative issues between the two sides, the office's website says.

The office has its main office in Beijing and a branch office in Hong Kong.

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