Hurricane hits Chen's tour itinerary

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2005, 12:00am

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian left yesterday on a 12-day visit to five allies in Central America and the Caribbean to cement ties and boost the island's international profile.

But before the start of his journey, which was to include two American stopovers in Miami and San Francisco, the US State Department insisted that his activities be kept 'private' and 'unofficial' in order to pacify Beijing.

Mr Chen's trip was also marred by the news that the airport in Miami had to be closed because of Hurricane Rita, which was threatening the Florida Keys.

He was forced to stay in Alaska for 12 hours instead of the two-hour refuelling stop originally planned. Presidential officials said Mr Chen had also had to reschedule his activities in Miami, where he was expected to be given a human rights award by a congressional caucus.

Mr Chen described his trip as a 'battle for diplomacy' in addition to cementing ties with the island's allies. His first stop will be Guatemala, where he will sign a free-trade agreement with his Guatemalan counterpart, Oscar Berger Perdomo, tomorrow.