Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) told the Taipei Times last night that he had formally approved yesterday the controversial proposal, submitted to him earlier in the day by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that the words "Issued in Taiwan" be added to the cover of new Taiwan passports
The word will be placed alongside the country's formal designation "Republic of China."
Earlier in the day, officials, including the president, had sought to defuse domestic and cross-strait criticism of the move.
In addition, Vice Premier Lai In-jaw (
"Besides, it requires one-third of lawmakers to file such a request, and it's highly unlikely that that is going to happen," Lai said.
In a private dinner banquet with the Taipei Times and its sister paper, the Liberty Times, Chang said that the issue is quite different from a change to the country's official name.
"They're two separate issues," he said. "I have no idea why they mix them up."
President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) took the nation by surprise when he announced on Sunday that the word "Taiwan" is to be added to the cover of Taiwanese passports. He did so on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the Washington-headquartered Formosan Association for Public Affairs (台灣人公共事務會).
"It's the most precious gift for the occasion," he said.
Opposition parties then questioned why the foreign affairs ministry bypassed the Cabinet, and threatened to boycott the annual budget and bills awaiting final approval at the legislature if the government insists on the change.
According to Chang, the foreign affairs ministry presented three different proposals to him in December.
"I didn't approve any of them," he said. "I told them to present only one to me and it had to meet three criteria."
Firstly, he said, Taiwanese passports had to be made easily distinguishable from Chinese passports. Secondly, they had to retain the designation "Republic of China," and, thirdly, they had to follow international practice.
Earlier yesterday, in the face of criticism from China, officials tried to defuse the uproar over the Sunday announcement.
"We haven't changed the country's name. We've just added `Issued in Taiwan.' It's just like attaching the `Made in Taiwan' label to our products, and it's something in which we all feel pride," President Chen said.
Responding to criticism from opposition parties about the occasion and timing of his announcement on Sunday, he said, "The occasion was right. So was the timing. It also served as recognition of the efforts made over the past 20 years by the Formosan Association for Public Affairs."
China's state-run China Daily yesterday quoted an anonymous official at the Taiwan Affairs Office as saying the passport decision was a sign that Taiwan was "inching towards independence."
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