Tue, Nov 09, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Powell's wake-up call

By Rao Kok-sia

US Secretary of State Colin Powell's recent statements upset Taiwan, for not recognizing it as a sovereign nation, a reaction more to the point than that from Singapore. At least three factors were not expressed publicly in official comments, or at least were not seen in overseas news.

First, Taiwan has not enjoyed human rights, nor freedom of speech, on the international stage for the past 60 years. These are what Taiwan has to insist on. Neither the KMT nor the DPP administrations have openly challenged China, the US and the whole world on these rights of Taiwan's people. These fundamental rights to seek her own happiness, freedom of speech and movement as a world citizen, which includes the right to referendum, self-determination for eventual independence (or joining other nations) and sovereignty. No nation of the civilized world can deny Taiwan that right.

Second, Taiwan did not realize that the US was acting according to its interests, mainly to make North Korea agree to come to the negotiating table. China is probably the only superpower that can do that. Although the Democrats' presidential candidate [Senator John Kerry] suggested there was no need for six-nation negotiations -- which probably originated from Powell -- this direction may be a dead end. National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice traveled to China a few months ago and did not kowtow to Beijing. Powell probably was trying to salvage his credibility by taking this direction. China is playing the Taiwan card as well. As a result, Powell kowtowed to China with his statement on Oct. 28.

Third, Powell's statement was probably directed at China. This is what I think his message to China would have been, in parentheses: Taiwan is not independent (now -- he used the present tense), Taiwan does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation, (this is the opportunity China should grab and talk to Taiwan now, when there are strong pro-China factions in Taiwan, because there may be a chance for the reunification which you are looking for). What Powell did not say was that (you, China) may not have any hopes of reunification when Taiwan becomes independent and enjoys sovereignty as a nation.

Moreover, I believe pro-independence factions in Taiwan should thank Powell for bringing this wake-up call to Taiwan. It is not too late for Taiwan to act according to its own interests, with something of a two-handed diplomacy: One plays white-face and the other black-face.

Lastly, Taiwan should always be able to object to any Taiwan-bashing, even from a friend, by insisting on its human rights when facing China's pressure in any meeting.

Rao Kok-Sia

Charlestown, MA

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