President Chen Shui-bian is all set to leave for San Francisco this morning en route to Managua.Officially, he is making the visit to congratulate President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua on the occasion of the latter's inauguration on Wednesday.On his way back from Managua, Chen will stop over at Los Angeles on Thursday.

We cannot bring ourselves to wish President Chen a happy trip, because it is a voyage that should not be made.

There is no reason why Chen has to make the trip to extend his felicitations in person to Ortega, who has vowed to cut off diplomatic relations between Taiwan and Nicaragua.The Sandinista president made that promise to Beijing in the run-up to his election.

Ortega did not switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing at once simply because Taipei had promised more aid in gratis.As a matter of fact, he talked with President Chen over the phone to “exchange opinions on issues of mutual interest to the two countries” a week or so ago.Chen, who already congratulated Ortega by phone, is expected to confirm the aid deal in the Nicaraguan capital.

Another purpose of the visit, which is much more important, is to avenge the slap in the face Uncle Sam dealt Chen in May last year.He was going to San Jose to attend the inauguration of the Costa Rican president, but Washington, offended by his end-run to terminate the National Unification Council, denied him transit stopovers in the contiguous United States.As a result, the president had to make two long detours to and back from Costa Rica.

Of course, President Chen learned a lesson.So this time around, he took every caution not to offend Uncle Sam again in delivering his New Year's Day address.He had his spokesman state Washington had not asked to read his speech.Washington had to make sure he did not mention a new constitution for Taiwan before permission was given him to lay over in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Vengeance is sweet, of course.But that should not be done at the expense of tax payers.Besides, the aid President Chen is about to confirm will just defer the moment of truth.President Ortega will break diplomatic ties with Taiwan sooner than later, if China chooses to ante up the stake.Nicaragua has been a loyal diplomatic ally of Taiwan for more than a decade and a half thanks to Taipei's uninterrupted cash donation.Needless to say, part of the money lined the pocket of a couple of Nicaraguan presidents.At least two of them have been so charged.

There is one more reason that President Chen should sit tight in Taipei.The first bank run in Taiwan in 80 years occurred last Friday.Depositors in panic withdrew NT$13 billion in one day from the Chinese Bank in Taipei.A new panic run is expected this morning.

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