Mon, Nov 08, 2004 - Page 8 News List

A question of sovereignty

By Richard Hartzell

There have been many articles here debating US Secretary of State Colin Powell's Oct. 25 statement that "Taiwan does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation." When the Department of State later reiterated former president Ronald Reagan's "Six Assur-ances," many press organizations in Taiwan interpreted this action as saying that Powell's remarks were a slip of the tongue, or merely a "face saving" gesture, in order to gain favor with Chinese officials.

However, it appears that this point is worthy of further discussion. After a close examination of the historic record, I believe it can be said that the US has never regarded Taiwan as a "sovereign nation." In the State Department's list of sovereign nations, "Taiwan" is only included as a footnote (

I believe there is an easy way to clear up the entire dispute. The Presidential Office or the Executive Yuan should clarify the exact date that Taiwan became a sovereign nation. Then historians, legal researchers and others could quickly verify the true facts of the matter.

The sovereignty of Taiwan was at one time held by Japan. In the post World War II era, the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) were directed by US General Douglas MacArthur to come to Taiwan and accept the surrender of Japanese troops. Many people in Taiwan have traditionally viewed this surrender date, Oct. 25, 1945, as the point in time when the sovereignty of Taiwan was trans-ferred to the Republic of China (ROC). However, under international law, and regardless of previous statements of intent this date can only be viewed as the beginning of the military occupation of "Formosa and the Pescadores." As we know, "military occupation does not transfer sovereignty."

Moreover, it is commonly recognized that in the postwar peace treaty (the San Francisco Peace Treaty), although Japan ceded the sovereignty of "Formosa and the Pescadores," that sovereignty was not awarded to the ROC. In fact, for any territorial cession, there must be a specific date when the "new owners" assume sovereign control. There are many examples in history, such as the , the Louisiana cession in 1803, Alaskan cession in 1867 and the Puerto Rico cession in 1899.

Hence, in order to clear up all the confusion, it would be most helpful if the government could announce the exact date when the sovereignty of "Formosa and the Pescadores" was transferred to the government of Taiwan.

Richard Hartzell


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