Name-change proposal wouldn't change status quo

IDENTIFICATION: When China forces Taiwan to change its name this is not seen as changing the status quo; when Taiwan does it, it should be viewed in the same way

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Thu, Dec 09, 2004 - Page 3

The US, which has been quiet as China forced international organizations and conference hosts to change the name of Taiwanese delegations, should be more balanced in its treatment of Beijing and Taipei, an academic said yesterday.

The US State Department said on Monday that President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) proposal to use "Taiwan" in the names of the country's overseas offices, relevant government agencies and state-run enterprises appeared to "unilaterally change Taiwan's status."

But the move actually has little effect, as China has altered Taiwan's status on various international occasions, said Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), executive director of the Institute for National Policy Research.

"China often asked hosts of international conferences to change the name of teams from Taiwan. It is an obvious attempt to change Taiwan's status, but the US has not cared much about this. We need to urge Washington to not apply a double standard to Taiwan and China," Lo said.

Negotiations with other countries regarding name changes to Taiwan's representative offices used to be an extremely low-key affair. After Chen publicly pledged to launch the policy, Beijing may use the opportunity to tell countries that accepting Taiwan's name-change proposal amounts to supporting Taiwanese independence, Lo said in an interview.

After the US voiced opposition to Chen's name-change plan, senior officials of the Presidential Office quickly explained it had nothing to do with Taiwanese independence, but is merely a policy to highlight the entity of Taiwan.

On the domestic side, the name changes will involve at least 27 government-affiliated agencies belonging to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Ministry of Education and Ministry of the Interior.

On the diplomatic front, the overhaul of the various names used by Taiwan's 119 overseas offices and missions will be a highly politically sensitive and time-consuming task. No one knows when it can be completed, even though Chen vowed to finish the job in two years.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said the government's two favorite names for its overseas representative offices and missions are the Republic of China (ROC) and Taiwan.

Currently, 38 of the country's overseas offices adopt the ROC in their official titles.

They include Taiwan's 27 embassies, three consulate-generals -- in Paraguay, Honduras and Panama, and commercial offices in Ecuador, Bolivia, Fuji, Papua New Guinea, Nigeria, Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

"Taipei" is used in the titles of 81 of Taiwan's overseas representative offices, while the country's missions in Hong Kong, Macau, Okinawa and at the World Trade Organization (WTO) use names that almost conceal which country they represent.

The "Sino-Ryukyuan Cultural & Economic Association Ryukyu Office" stands for Taiwan's mission in Okinawa, and the country's representative office at the WTO is called the "Permanent Mission of the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu."

Name changes of the offices are not a new idea, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) said. "We had been working toward this when we were in the US," he said, referring to his decades-long political activities in America.

"Now he [President Chen] has announced the goal. We have to implement his policy," the minister said.