We are the Republic of Taiwan: Lee

FACE REALITY: Former president Lee Teng-hui said it was time to change the nation's title, while his visit to Washington was marked by US concern for Taiwan's democracy

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON , WITH STAFF WRITER

Thu, Oct 20, 2005 - Page 1

Taiwan is an independent country and what needs to be done now in keeping with reality is to change the country's official title from "Republic of China" to "Republic of Taiwan," former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said in a newspaper interview.

The former president made the remark in an interview with the Washington Post, which published the report yesterday.

"Taiwan is already an independent country," Lee said in the interview with the Post during his ongoing tour in Washington.

What is needed now is for the formal name "Republic of China" to be dropped in favor of the reality, the Republic of Taiwan, Lee said, according to the Post report.

Also, the growing military imbalance with China has made it increasingly necessary for the nation to acquire "some kind of long-range missiles" that would give it an offensive capability, Lee added.

"The psychological effect is important" in order to deter China from attacking Taiwan, Lee said.

The Bush administration has pushed Taiwan to buy "defensive" weaponry, but Lee said the package under consideration would leave Taiwan shortchanged.

A purely defensive posture, he said, "is a very big risk to the military balance across the Taiwan Strait."

Meanwhile,the deepening split between pan-green and pan-blue forces and the pan-blue drive toward reconciliation with Beijing became a major talking point on Tuesday, as Lee held meetings with academics, former government officials and other Taiwan specialists on the second day of his four-day visit to Washington, according to participants in the discussions.

As Lee continued to stress the need for the US to support Taiwan's democracy and security against a Chinese military attack, Americans he met seemed more concerned over pan-blue activities and their implications for US security concerns in the Taiwan Strait.

China's increased threat to Taiwan and the need for the nation to defend itself, particularly by boosting military spending and purchasing the weaponry the Bush administration has agreed to sell to Taiwan, was a main theme of Lee's meetings, according to sources familiar with the meetings, which were all private and held in secret.

The "split personality" in Taiwan, as one participant put it, was a major concern of the American participants. They viewed with worry the pan-blue efforts to gain points with Beijing as part of their efforts to regain power from the DPP government, sources said.

Some participants were "alarmed and concerned" over the pan-blue efforts. "The pull to the west [China] is becoming irresistible," as one participant characterized the US' concerns.

With the sensitivity of Lee's visit for the Bush administration in view of China's ardent condemnation of the visit in recent days, participants spoke with the Taipei Times on condition of anonymity.

Lee came to Washington with the stated intention of solidifying US-Taiwan relations and to assure continued US commitment to Taiwan's security in the face of China's threats and Beijing's accelerating military modernization.

But the emergence of concerns over pan-blue actions appears to have cast a major shadow over the aims of Lee's visit.

Lee started the day with a meeting of former chairpersons of the American Institute in Taiwan. He later had lunch with some two dozen specialists and former government officials at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Later, Lee was the guest of honor at a gala dinner hosted by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Relations Office at its Washington mansion, Twin Oaks.

A high point in his visit was to come last night, when the US Congress held a reception in his honor.

Several dozen senators and representatives were expected to attend the reception in the Capitol, which was arranged mainly by the Senate's Taiwan Congressional Caucus, which has been largely moribund since its formation.

Today, Lee is scheduled to make a presentation and hold a news conference at the National Press Club before heading to Los Angeles for the last stop in his five-city US tour.