Sat, Nov 06, 2004 - Page 3 News List

US support of Macedonia won't impact Taiwan

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

A decision the Bush administration made Wednesday over the official name of the Balkan republic of Macedonia will have no impact on Washington's policy toward Taiwan's international status, the US State Department said.

Over strenuous objections from Greece, the Bush administration announced that it is accepting the official name of the "Republic of Macedonia."

The decision flies in the face of bitter objections from Athens, which insists that the Balkan nation be officially called the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia."

The dispute goes back to ancient times, when Macedonia was the home of Alexander the Great. While Greece and Macedonia were separated by centuries under the Ottoman Empire and in recent times by Macedonia's absorption into Yugoslavia after World War II, Athens did recognize Macedonia's independence after the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991.

But Greece, whose relations with Washington has been strained under the Bush administration, still opposes the term "Republic of Macedonia," and the UN is still trying to mediate the unresolved dispute.

Announcing the decision, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "We have now decided to refer to Macedonia officially as the Republic of Macedonia. By recognizing Macedonia's chosen constitutional name, we wish to underscore the US commitment to a permanent, multiethnic, democratic Macedonian state within its existing borders."

In doing so, Boucher noted Macedonia's support of the US war against terrorism and its contribution of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan -- support which Greece had withheld.

Asked about whether the US decision on Macedonia has any impact on US policy toward Taiwan's international recognition, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "it doesn't have implications for any other area of the world."

Ironically, the Macedonia issue has some eerie parallels with Taiwan. Like the Taiwan issue, the Macedonia issue involves a major state, Greece, and a smaller entity over which it had historic territorial claims.

Also, a factor that helped spark the US decision was a referendum planned tomorrow concerning domestic issues. The referendum will empower the coun-try's Albanian ethnic minority in Macedonia's multi-ethnic society and help pave the way for Macedonia's greater international recognition and participation in European organizations.

A follow-up question at the State Department press briefing about whether the Macedonia decision bears on Washington's feelings over whether other countries should establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan led to an ad hoc review of the US position of the issue.

Asked about the issue, Boucher said, "I'll go find you the standard answer on that."

In the end, the "standard answer" -- and US policy -- remained unchanged.

The department's standard answer was: "Other govern-ments' decision whether or not to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan are for those governments to make."

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