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Taiwan Tries New Name in Application for UN Membership

Taiwan has submitted an application for membership in the United Nations under the name "Taiwan." Previous applications used Taiwan's official name, the Republic of China. This new effort at U.N. membership is likely to anger China, which considers Taiwan part of Chinese territory. Andrew Ryan reports from Taipei.

Taiwan officials delivered a membership application signed by President Chen Shui-bian to the United Nations Secretary-General's office in New York on Thursday.

At a press conference in Taipei on Friday, a senior official from Taiwan's Presidential Office, Chen Chi-mai, explained the reason for the direct application.

Chen said that Taiwan has never been part of China. He said the government had to do everything in its ability to overcome China's boycott of Taiwan in the international community. Chen said that Taiwan was changing its tack this year, because a more "modest" approach had been rejected in the past.

This is the first time that Taiwan has directly submitted its own application for membership. In the past, it was Taiwan's allies who tried unsuccessfully to put the bid on the U.N. agenda.

Representatives from Swaziland, the Solomon Islands and Malawi joined Taiwan in presenting the membership application. They are among just about two-dozen countries that hold ties with Taiwan.

The new push by Taiwan is likely to prompt a negative reaction from China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, and is unlikely to be supported by the United States. Taiwan, under its official name of Republic of China, lost its U.N. seat to China in 1971.

Taiwan's bid for membership has failed every year since 1993. It has limited support, because China insists that its allies not hold ties with Taiwan.

Taiwan's Presidential Office had planned a referendum to ask the Taiwanese people if they supported a membership bid under the name "Taiwan." But opposition to the plan came from other parts of the government, and from the United States and China.

A presidential office spokesman did not respond to a question about why the government decided to file an application months before the planned referendum.