President Ma Ying-jeou touched down March 14 in Guatemala, the first leg of a seven-day Central America tour including another ROC diplomatic ally Belize and transit stops in the U.S. cities of Houston and Los Angeles.

Ma, who was warmly received by new Guatemala President James Ernesto Morales Cabrera, is heading a delegation of around 80 senior government officials, legislators and business representatives. While in country he will hold talks with Jose Antonio Alvarado, president of the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), and address the Guatemala City-based institution.

After arriving in Belize March 17, Ma is to meet with Prime Minister Dean Barrow, as well as the leaders of ROC Caribbean diplomatic allies St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Timothy Harris, St. Lucia Prime Minister Kenny Anthony and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

En route to Guatemala, Ma made a stopover March 13 in Houston. He was welcomed by the city's ROC expatriates at a banquet attended by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, U.S. Reps. Blake Farenthold, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Pete Olson and Pete Sessions, as well as Raymond Burghardt, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan.

During the event, the president described Taipei-Washington ties as at their highest point since the Taiwan Relations Act took effect in 1979, citing a record US$20.1 billion in security cooperation deals over the last eight years.

This is in addition to strengthened ties with Taiwan's regional partners, as evidenced by landmark fisheries agreements with Japan and the Philippines, he said. "Such successes reflect the substantive results achieved by my policy of viable diplomacy and promotion of East and South China Sea Peace Initiatives.

"There is no rest or interim for diplomacy," Ma said, adding that he will continue expanding Taiwan's international participation and multilateral ties going forward.

This is the president's 12th and final overseas trip during his two four-year terms in office. Ma and his delegation will transit in Los Angeles before returning March 19 to Taiwan.

Source: Taiwan Today