Fri, Dec 24, 2004 - Page 3 News List

MOFA fears US block on name change

VOLATILE The Ministry of Foreign Affairs conceded that Washington is not warming to the proposal to change the name of the nation's representative offices in the US

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The US will be the most difficult country in which to change the name of Taiwan's representative offices, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) said yesterday.

At a legislative question-and-answer session, lawmakers questioned the practicality of the name changes proposed by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) during campaigning for the legislative elections.

"The name-change plan should be conducted in a circumspect manner, but instead it has been turned into a volatile issue," Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Cho-shui (林濁水) said.

In response to a question from Lin on whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave Chen advice on how to implement the proposal, Kau said that the ministry had indeed done so, but that not all of its advice had been accepted by the president.

"Changing the name of the representative offices in the US will be the hardest. Even though we might successfully change the name of our representative offices in other countries, Washington will not let us change the name of our representative offices in the US," Kau said.

People First Party (PFP) Legislator Sun Ta-chien (孫大千) said Chen's proposal to include the word "Taiwan" in overseas offices challenged the "strategic ambiguity" that the US maintains in handling cross-strait relations.

"Recent remarks by US Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, seemed to indicate that Washington is gradually tilting toward Beijing," Sun said.

Sun was referring to Armitage's comment this week in an interview with the PBS network in the US that Taiwan was one of the biggest "landmines" in China-US relations and Powell's earlier statement that Taiwan did not possess sovereignty.

"The US is facing a very serious choice in dealing with cross-strait relations," Kau said. "The US needs to develop a close strategic relationship with China but still plays an indispensable role in Taiwan's security. Though recent remarks by US officials seem to be leaning toward China, Washington will try to take care of Taiwan's interests."

Ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said US policy remains unchanged and added that Armitage did not bring up the word "landmine" himself in describing Taiwan's role in China-US ties in the interview.

"He was asked by the [interviewer] what the landmines in China-US relations were in the interview. He said Taiwan. We need not be too nervous if we understand the conversation that actually took place," he said.

The ministry, said Lu, had instructed its representative offices to explain to their host countries the possible consequences that China's proposed anti-secession law might bring.

"The law, if passed, will seriously threaten regional stability and unilaterally change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait," Lu said.

Taiwan and China must share responsibility for keeping the peace in the Taiwan Strait, Lu said, adding that Taiwan "has no reason to cause trouble in the region."

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