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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Yokwe Online, June 22) - A group of five parliamentarians from the Republic of the Marshall Islands left for a visit to the People's Republic of China on June 12. The high-level delegation was composed of Nitijela (legislative body) senators who also serve as standing committee chairmen. The group was led by Vice Speaker Ruben Zackhras.

Three days into their trip, the Marshall Islands' delegation visited with a top official for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

On June 15, Wang Wei, executive vice-president and secretary-general of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad met with Vice Speaker Zackhras, who was accompanied by the Marshalls' delegation.

The two parties discussed the preparatory work of the 2008 Olympic Games, reported the committee.

The Marshalls became the 203rd member of the Olympic Movement in February, 2006, and the new Marshall Islands National Olympic Committee made its first appearance at the Association of National Olympic Committees' General Assembly held in South Korea last April. Some of Marshall Islands' potential Olympic athletes are attending the Micronesian Games held in Saipan this week.

Eight Marshall Islands Nitijela members had originally planned to travel to Beijing at an invitation from the China’s National People’s Congress. At the last minute, several senators did not go for personal reasons, and one withdrew in opposition to the trip.

The Republic of China visit was opposed by the President of the Marshall Islands Kessai Note who belongs to the same, majority party. Some government and community leaders also voiced their opposition to the visit due to the eight-year diplomatic relationship with Taiwan.

Speaker Litokwa Tomeing, who handed-off the trip to the Vice Speaker, called the visit was a "legislature-to-legislature exchange," but Marshall Islands Foreign Affairs Minister Gerald Zackios said the trip was worrisome because it has the appearance of a "government-to-government" visit.

June 23, 2006

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