Mon, Sep 25, 2000 - Page 8 News List

China's numbers and mindset are outdated

By Joseph Bosco

The Chinese favor policy by numerology: "One Country, two Systems," "Three No's," "Four Modernizations" and so on. Given Beijing's escalating threats against Taiwan, the international community should respond with some numbers of its own: three 2(4)'s and an 88. The numbers designate the pertinent sections of the UN Charter, the UN Declaration on Principles of International Law, the Taiwan Relations Act, and the UN Law of the Sea Convention, all of which prohibit Chinese military action against Taiwan, whether it is considered independent or a part of China.

Article 2(4) of the UN Charter prohibits "the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations." While Beijing continues to deny the reality that Taiwan is at least a de facto state, the Charter's Purposes include "peaceful ... adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace."

Confirming that the Charter's mandate applies to the China-Taiwan issue, Article 2(4) of the UN's Declaration states that the ban against force "includes territorial disputes and problems concerning frontiers of States."

UN action in the Korean War demonstrated the point. Despite the Soviet Union's argument that the North Korean attack on the South was simply a matter of reunifying a divided nation, the Security Council had no difficulty in finding it an act of aggression (and also condemned China for supporting it).

Section 2(b)(4) of the Taiwan Relations Act states that the US will "consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States." Though it is US domestic law, it deliberately tracks the language and purpose of the Charter.

Finally, Article 88 of the Law of the Sea Convention declares: "The high seas shall be reserved for peaceful purposes." Nations are free to conduct military and naval exercises, but they must do so in a manner that does not interfere with the peaceful use of the sea by others. International straits are part of the high seas where freedom of navigation is guaranteed to all.

China's 1995 to 1996 live-fire drills, mock amphibious assaults and missile firings against Taiwan violated every one of those provisions of international law, closing the Taiwan Strait and the airspace above it to world commerce. In the name of addressing China's "internal affairs," Beijing sought to intimidate Taiwan for daring to conduct free elections to choose their president and legislature, thereby disproving the myth that "Asian values" are incompatible with democracy. And after the independence movement lost ground in the 1998 elections, China responded not by relaxing its bellicose posture but by deploying hundreds of additional missiles targeted at Taiwan and brandishing its neutron bomb for good measure.

Along with an introduction to international law 101, Beijing also needs to unlearn some of its Orwellian logic. President Jiang Zemin (江澤民) recently declared: "If China were to undertake not to use force against Taiwan, the peaceful reunification of China would become hollow words." War is peace, right out of 1984. Jiang may thinks he's borrowing the old NATO Cold War motto, "peace through strength." If so, it's a perverse understanding of the West's deterrent strategy of preserving peace by preparing for war.

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