Wed, Mar 16, 2005 - Page 9 News List

Taiwan and statehood

While many argue that Taiwan fits the legal description of a state, complexities abound, including ambiguities left from the San Francisco peace treaty of 1951-1952 and Beijing's 'one China' policy



John Bolton, named to be the new US ambassador to the UN, long has believed Washington should simply recognize Taiwan.

"Diplomatic recognition of Taiwan would be just the kind of demonstration of US leadership that the region needs and that many of its people hope for," Bolton said in a 1999 statement as scholar with the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute.

"The notion that China would actually respond with force is a fantasy, albeit one the Communist leaders welcome and encourage in the West," he said.

As a democracy and one of the world's largest international traders, Taiwan meets the UN charter's definition of "statehood," Bolton asserted in the Washington Times the same year, adding that he found it a "palpable unfairness" that Taiwan was not part of the UN.

This exclusion of Taipei not only proved China's "petulant opposition," but also showed "the organization's detachment from international reality," he wrote.

During questioning from members of the US Congress during his confirmation hearing after being nominated last week by US President George W. Bush, Bolton conceded that "things have changed" since his nomination.

However, he said, "I stand by the analysis," while adding that "it's not on my checklist of things to do at the state department."

Amid the recent tension between China and Taiwan over Beijing's "anti-secession" law, Taiwanese media have reminded Bolton of his past analysis.

Taiwan's sovereignty and the right to self-determination by the nation's 23 million people are at the center of the debate over China's anti-secession law.

The law legitimizes "non-peaceful means and other necessary measures" if Taiwan is seen to be moving toward formal independence or if efforts for peaceful unification are "completely exhausted."

This is where the complexities arise. How can Taiwan split from the People's Republic of China (PRC), when it has never been part of it, independent experts argue.

Since it has never been a province of the PRC, how could it then be considered "renegade." Finally, how can something be "united" that has never been one, they say.

When Japan was stripped of Taiwan after World War II, the San Francisco Peace Treaty Conference of 1951-1952 did not specify the new sovereign. Most participants at the conference agreed on the right of self-determination by the Taiwanese people.

After fleeing China with the Chinese Nationalist troops following their defeat against the communists and the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) occupied Taiwan and replaced Japanese colonial rule over the Taiwanese people with Chinese dictatorship.

Since the end of martial law in 1987 and subsequent democratization, the government in Taipei still views itself as the legitimate ruler of the Republic of China, which was founded in 1912 in China.

Unlike Beijing though, the government in Taiwan no longer claims sovereignty over China.

For Taipei, China has been divided since 1949, is ruled by two sovereign governments and exists as two "political entities." From an international legal perspective, experts view Taiwan as meeting all requirements to be considered a sovereign state.

Even those who accept Beijing's classification of Taiwan for political reasons must give the nation the status of "de-facto regime," experts say.

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