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Why rename CKS Airport?

President Chen Shui-bian has tossed another bone to pro-independence stalwarts in the hopes of narrowing the effects of a massive sit-in being organized to demand his inept government’s resignation.

According to Premier Su Tseng-chang, efforts are already underway to rename the Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, which serves as the country’s main gateway to the outside world.

The premier has informed us that the proposed removal of the CKS moniker, which is widely expected to receive Cabinet approval at its weekly meeting on Wednesday, is purely intended to help visitors from overseas “understand clearer that this is Taiwan.”

It is not rocket science to understand that this move has less to do with clarifying the airport’s location than it does with pandering to the “deep green” support base for President Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party.

While we can hardly blame the embattled president for reaching out to his base as he continues to fight for his political life, we are strongly disappointed that all he is able to do is change names of major landmarks in the country.

We can only wonder how many more major landmarks, street names and institutions President Chen will rename before his supporters will be satisfied. In the meantime, absolutely nothing is being done to bring about substantial improvements in the lives of ordinary people suffering from a weak economy.

It is blatantly obvious that our worsening economic fortunes are, at least in a major part, attributable to chronic political instability jointly caused by President Chen’s inept administration and the opposition’s never-ending reactions to his provocative governing style. We honestly do not see how removing the name of former President Chiang Kai-shek, the longtime authoritarian ruler of our country, will somehow make our foreign friends suddenly realize they have stepped foot on Taiwan after their arrival.

It is simply ridiculous to imagine that visitors to this country, even including the most ignorant of world geography, would not realize they were indeed heading to Taiwan when they purchased plane tickets to come here in the first place.

While it is a nice thought to promote tourism in the Taoyuan area by adding the region’s name to the international airport located within its boundaries, the fact is that CKS Airport is the international gateway for Taipei, a status it has held since all international flights were routed there at its opening in 1979.

Before the opening of CKS Airport, whose original Terminal 1 was modeled after Washington D.C.’s Dulles International Airport, all international traffic coming in and out of northern Taiwan used what is now the Taipei Songshan Airport.

After CKS Airport was opened, the “TPE” designation of Songshan was moved to CKS, while the Taipei airport was given the name “TSA.”

These are not only the official designations of the two airports, but also the codes that are broadcast by beacon signals emitted by the two airports and cannot be changed without making complicated arrangements with the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Besides the fact that CKS Airport is officially TPE or the international airport of Taipei, we are puzzled by the fact that President Chen is doing nothing to boost public confidence in the competence of his floundering government.

Even more bizarre is the fact that the proposed new name “Taoyuan International Airport” is how the facility is commonly referred to in mainland China.

Back in the 1990s, when a slew of mainland Chinese hijacked civilian airliners to Taiwan, news reports broadcast tape recordings of the mainland Chinese pilots asking for permission to land at “Taoyuan Airport” from the CKS tower.

The mainland pilots, who knew their voices were being recorded, used the term “Taoyuan Airport” to avoid offending political sensitivities after their eventual return to the communist-ruled mainland, since Chiang Kai-shek ruled in the name of anti-communism and vowed until his death to one day return and defeat his communist enemies.

That makes the proposed name change all the more ironic, since DPP leaders profess a desire to keep Taiwan separate from the Chinese mainland and seek to reject Beijing’s territorial claims over our territory.

Rather than keep a name that stresses our separateness from the communist-ruled mainland, DPP leaders have instead adopted the mainland’s own term for the facility.

We really wish that President Chen and his minions could do something that can actually have positive effects on the lives of the people. No matter what excuses are dragged out for renaming the airport, changing names and painting things green can do absolutely nothing besides provoke unnecessary controversy and widen social tensions.

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