As Taiwan democratizes, its people and their friends constantly explore and re-evaluate the nation's history. One key question is: "Who was responsible for Taiwan's leaving the UN in October 1971?"
M. Nalapat argued that Washington, London, Paris and Tokyo lacked the "moral courage" to keep Taiwan in the UN despite the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government's support for all the US' actions ("An Indian idea for easing tensions," Oct. 19, page 8). I have had the chance to use the Ministry of Foreign Affairs archives in Taiwan to examine this. The archive material suggests that the blame falls almost entirely on the Republic of China (ROC) government of formerPresident Chiang Kai-shek (
The heart of the problem was Chiang's "one China" policy. In 1964, for example, when France and Beijing recognized each other, their communique said nothing about Taiwan. France did not break relations with Taiwan. Rather, despite apparent urgings from the US to maintain relations with France, the Republic of China on Taiwan unilaterally broke relations with France, stating Taiwan "firmly opposes any advocacy of two Chinas and this national policy absolutely will not change under any circumstances."
American archives do reveal that Nixon and Kissinger, in the words of Nalapat, were "untrue and ungrateful friends" of Taiwan. The ministry archives reveal, however, that the US as well as Australia, Japan and New Zealand did make significant efforts to keep Taiwan in the UN.
As early as Feb. 24, 1971, some eight months before Taiwan left the UN, the ministry prepared some "extremely top secret" materials outlining the various options for Taiwan as well as original texts and Chinese translations of several motions proposed by various parties.
In mid-1971, the US and other countries began to push for a "dual representation" solution. The Australian ambassador to Taipei, Hugh Dunn, wrote on June 4, 1971, to then Minister of Foreign Affairs Chow Shu-kai (
Chow showed some willingness to adjust to the new situation. When talking to the Japanese ambassador to Taipei, he said: "Although I have no way to approve of it and under the circumstances must express my opposition, we could tolerate its existence." The English phrase, "We can live with it," is added to the Chinese text.
In an "absolutely secret" secret document dated Aug. 3, 1971, the ministry laid out the options and Taiwan's preferences. The first preference was that the "important question" motion be passed, which meant that the PRC would require a two-thirds vote to be admitted. The second preference was "dual recognition." But even at this late moment, after more than 20 years of rejecting any alternative to "one China," the Nationalist authorities would not openly embrace dual recognition.
This posed difficult problems for Taiwan as the motion "is in opposition to [the] basic stance of opposition to any `two Chinas' arrangement," especially one in which Taiwan surrendered its seat on the Security Council to the PRC. Thus, "we must always express opposition." But, since our "purpose is to defeat the Albanian resolution, this is a tactical measure, so our ambassadors must explain to the governments, where they are posted, the reasons why we cannot support the dual recognition motion." This complicated message was very difficult to convey to others.
US secretary of state William Rogers wrote a four-page letter to Chow on Sept. 8, 1971. He noted that on Aug. 2, the US government had announced its policy of dual representation and sought support around the world. Unfortunately, the US had failed to "assemble even a minimally acceptable list of co-sponsors" for dual recognition because the US had not mentioned the Security Council seat. Rogers warned that the Albanian resolution admitting China and expelling Taiwan would pass and that dual representation would not even come to the floor -- unless the US made clear what would happen to the Security Council seat.
Rogers did make an announcement that China would gain the Security Council seat and secured Australia, Japan and New Zealand as co-sponsors of the dual representation motion. An examination of Taiwan's secret materials at the UN Mission reveals that one, Taiwan overestimated its strength at the UN and two, "China", ie, the ROC, still had not made up its mind on dual recognition. On a table of whether countries would support or oppose dual recognition, the document stated, "We are still not included" as supporting dual recognition. Thus, the KMT hesitated right up to the very end.
As Rogers had forecast, the dual recognition motion never made it to the floor. The important question motion failed and the Albanian motion then came to the floor and passed. Taiwan's ambassador to the UN, Liu Chieh (
Bruce Jacobs is professor of Asian languages and studies at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and director of its Taiwan Research Unit.
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