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By Aenet Rowa

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Yokwe Online, May 1) – Republic of China President Chen Shui-bian and his delegation arrived in Majuro, Marshall Islands, today as special guests of the young Pacific nation for its 26th Constitutional Day celebration.

President Chen is the first head-of-state to make an official visit to the Marshalls. President Kessai Note of the Republic of the Marshalls welcomed his Taiwan counterpart at a state banquet, the first event of a tightly-scheduled, two-day visit.

The "island-formal" dinner was held at the Marshall Islands Resort and featured a six-course meal of island delicacies. Highlighting the evening's entertainment was a rare performance by Iroijlaplap (Marshall Islands' traditional leader) Michael Kabua's Jebwa Stick Dancers from Ujae. Both presidents tried their hands at the drum-playing with the colorful, youthful, Taiwanese indigenous drum and pipe band brought to the Marshalls for the occasion.

Sunday's dinner list included national and local government leaders, while another reception is planned for Monday night with a larger, wider guest list. The Taiwanese community of Majuro is hosting an elaborate dinner for President Chen at the Long Island Hotel.

The highly publicized dinner events have created quite a stir amongst the community, with Majuro residents asking each other, "Are you a Sunday or a Monday?"

The intense level of security and protocol is also a first for the small island nation, which often runs on island-time and with great informality. Marshall Islands' citizens generally celebrate the national holiday on May 1 with sporting events, parades, and picnics.

In honor of President Chen's visit, there will be a "continuing Nitijela session of the first half of the 26th Constitutional Regular session, 2005" in the Nitijela Chamber at 10 am. The Nitijela is the national legislative body composed of 33 senators representing the country’s 24 inhabited atolls and coral islands.

After the session, at 2 pm in the Nitijela conference room, the invited guests will attend a luncheon hosted by Litokwa Tomeing, Speaker of the Nitijela and the Riley Albertter, Mayor of the Majuro Atoll Local Government. Both occasions are by invitation only and require "formal attire."

Noticeably absent from the activities are local United States government officials and Embassy personnel who are not permitted to attend any of these functions due to the "one China" US foreign policy. The US stance does not recognize the ROC, but only the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Although the United States and the Marshall Islands are linked by the Compact of Free Association, the RMI has sovereignty in foreign affairs. The RMI broke-off relations with the PRC and established diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1998.

The two presidents will make a public appearance Monday afternoon at the Majuro lagoon for the President's Canoe National Cup competition.

May 2, 2005

Yokwe Online: www.yokwe.net



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