Taiwan's first lady may meet Pope: reports

20th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

The wife of Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou is to visit Italy, an official said Sunday, amid speculation that she may meet the Pope Benedict XVI.

Chow Mei-ching was tight-lipped at the northern Taoyuan airport when asked by reporters to comment on her itinerary.

Presidential office spokesman Luo Chih-chiang said Chow was visiting Italy in her capacity as honorary director of Taiwan's Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, which is scheduled to perform outside Rome Tuesday and Wednesday.

Luo declined to confirm local media reports that Chow might meet the Pope during a visit to the Vatican, Taiwan's only diplomatic ally in Europe.

The trip will also take Chow to Spain, Luo said.

Observers say Taiwanese authorities have tried to keep the trip in low profile in order not to inconvenience the Vatican, which has been seeking to set up diplomatic ties with Beijing.

They are also keen not to upset Beijing, which has traditionally opposed official visits abroad by dignitaries from Taiwan, still regarded as part of its territory awaiting reunification.

Despite its traditionally hardline stance, Beijing has begun allowing the island limited participation in international affairs as tensions across the Taiwan Strait have eased since the China-friendly Ma came to power in 2008, boosting trade links and allowing in more Chinese tourists.

© 2010 AFP

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