Mayor back from visit to China, Japan

Schmoke helped honor 15- , 20-year anniversaries of sister city program

July 31, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has returned from his 10-day trip to China and Japan to celebrate the anniversaries of Baltimore's sister cities program.

Schmoke visited Xiamen, China, and Kawasaki, Japan, to celebrate anniversaries of the cultural, business and education collaboration with Baltimore. Xiamen became a sister city 15 years ago; Kawasaki, 20 years ago.

Schmoke acknowledged that although some city residents may question the benefits of such exchanges, the trips help participating countries, Schmoke said.

Baltimore has an education and health exchange with Japan that allows the city to send a schoolteacher to visit the nation each year.

The trip to Asia was part of an increase in Schmoke's globe-trotting since his December announcement that he will step down as mayor after 12 years. Since the news, Schmoke has visited Ghana, England and Cuba in addition to his latest trip.

The mayor defended the travel, saying that in the past he has sent city representatives. Schmoke, who will end his term in early December, said the trips have been mostly paid for by sponsoring private groups and foundations.

The host countries picked up the costs of the China and Japan trips, except for the mayor's airfare, aides said.

"Some of the programs are purely ceremonial," Schmoke said. "Others involve exchanges, and others involve business. We are part of a global village."

Schmoke has gained significant national attention for sparking a cultural exchange earlier this year with Cuba. In addition to the much-publicized baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban National Team, several city department heads, including health and public works leaders, have visited the country.

"The sister cities exchanges are considered extremely important to the cities involved," Schmoke said.

The mayor said yesterday that in two weeks, seven Cuban health officials will be visiting Baltimore and touring area medical facilities. The city's proximity to the nation's capital will ensure that Schmoke's successor will also play a role in Baltimore's global relationships, he said.

"Travel is going to be an important part of what the next mayor does," Schmoke said. "I do think it's important."

Pub Date: 7/31/99

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