Senior officials yesterday praised Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui's just-concluded tour of Latin America amid claims he bought diplomatic allies with lavish promises of aid, weapons and trade. Summoned to the Legislative Yuan to answer questions about the 16-day trip to Panama, Honduras, El Salvador and Paraguay, Taiwan's Foreign Minister, National Security Council chief and Defence Minister praised the visit, saying it had strengthened ties with the four countries. Only 30 governments maintain diplomatic relations with Taipei due to Beijing's refusal to recognise countries with Taiwan ties. Vice-Premier John Chang Hsiao-yen, who retained concurrent status as Foreign Minister after a recent Cabinet reshuffle, told the Foreign Affairs Committee that support for Taipei's bid to rejoin the United Nations remained strong among the island's diplomatic allies. Lawmakers had asked Mr Chang why Panama and Paraguay had failed to voice support for Taipei's UN bid last Wednesday, when the UN General Assembly's agenda-setting committee decided to leave Taiwan's bid off the agenda. 'They will speak for us when the General Assembly convenes,' Mr Chang said. 'We have received assurances that heads of state and foreign ministers will support us in the general debate.' He said his ministry had made no secret promises. 'There is no 'secret diplomacy'.' Mr Chang added that relations with the mainland had been considered when conducting foreign policy, although Taipei was fully in charge of its own destiny. 'We hope to actively participate in international activities, to let the Chinese communists understand that the Republic of China will not disappear from the face of the Earth.' He said Mr Lee planned to visit Africa next year at the invitation of leaders there. He did not specify which countries he would visit, but noted Taipei had 11 diplomatic allies in the region and it was unlikely the President would limit his visit to two countries named in recent reports - Burkina Faso and Senegal. Mr Chang confirmed he would drop the post of Foreign Minister after the October 10 national day celebrations. Reports have widely tipped Jason Hu Chih-chiang, Taiwan's de facto ambassador to Washington, as his most likely replacement.