Fri, Nov 19, 2004 - Page 8 News List


Sovereign under any flag

I am of the opinion that Taiwan -- even if it calls itself "Bob" rather than "Taiwan, Republic of China," or "Great Liuqiu" and flies a smiley face rather than a flag with either the sun or a map on it -- deserves international recognition of its sovereignty.

However, Richard Hartzell's argument that Taiwan's sovereignty is in American hands simply doesn't cut it (Letters, Nov. 8, page 8).

The Cairo Declaration and similar World War II-era documents were indeed statements of intent -- and the intent of returning Taiwan to China materialized on Oct. 25, 1945, when ROC troops oversaw the Japanese surrender of Taiwan. Even in ordinary municipal property law, possession is nine-tenths of the law.

Save in the minds of embit-tered communist propagandists who were cheated out of a few million more people to terrorize, Taiwan was not, and is not, in US hands. Hence, its sovereignty is not something Washington can grant.

The subsequent division of China at Xiamen and Fuzhou harbors was not foreseen when the documents were written, nor was the divergent evolution of societies in Taiwan and China.

Taiwan is sovereign because it prints its own money, sends not a dime in taxes to Beijing (or Tokyo, or Washington), and its armed forces could probably make a Chinese military venture bleed badly enough to destabilize the communist regime -- and not because of loopholes in Japan's 50-year-old surrender documents and allied agreements. It is also sovereign because the bulk of its people, including those who loudly insist that they are "Chinese," are in no hurry to live under Beijing's rule.

In the absence of a generally recognized enforcer, international law is what states and people say it is. For more than half a century, Taiwan's people and government have been saying they do not live under the People's Republic of China, and no matter what US Secretary of State Colin Powell and other statesmen say to mollify Beijing, nobody has been able to force them to submit.

Part of the awkwardness of Taiwan's international position is that while most powers will not say Taiwan is sovereign, they also will not approve of Beijing's attempts to assert sovereignty by force.

This, not loopholes in documents written more than 50 years ago, is what makes Taiwan sovereign.

Peter Herz


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