Faced with threats from China as well as issues of national identity, Taiwan is now left with but a single trump card. It is a trump card that the US does not want Taiwan to play, the former Chin-ese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime dared not play and the current Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government does not know how to play.
In fact, if the US, Japan and Taiwan decided to play this trump card by acknowledging the reality of the situation -- that there is one country on each side of the Taiwan Strait -- when talking to China, it would actually benefit peace and stability in the region and would also help China realize the stable development it is looking for.
The trump card in question is actually a legal card based on the rights and responsibilities that the Allies accepted from Japan in the San Francisco Peace Treaty after World War II. Specifically, the KMT government covered up the fact that Japan never "returned" sovereignty over Taiwan and Penghu to China.
Overriding any calls for democracy, Chiang Kai-shek (
Former US president Richard Nixon was well aware that his country had directed the signing of the San Francisco treaty, that Japan had not handed sovereignty of Taiwan and Penghu to China, and that as a signatory to the treaty, the US had no right to recognize China's claim over Taiwan.
The Chiang regime's claim to legality and China's "one China" policy forced Nixon to adopt a clever tactic: He did not recognize China's sovereignty over Taiwan. Instead, he only stated that Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait maintained that there was but one China, that Taiwan was part of that China, and that the US did not disagree with this interpretation.
The US sidestepped the legal issues and established diplomatic relations with China, but the parts of the San Francisco treaty dealing with sovereignty over Taiwan remain the legal foundation for the US' opposition to Chinese military aggression against the nation and its guarantees for the nation's security.
As a defeated state and signatory to the treaty, Japan also had no legal right to recognize Chin-ese sovereignty over Taiwan. Since Taiwan became a democracy, Japan has adjusted its relations with the nation, bringing them more in line with its obligations under the treaty and the UN's principle of self-determination.
Not playing this legal card hampers regional stability. Beijing conceals Taiwan's true legal status from its people, fans Chinese nationalism and enacted the "Anti-Secession Law" last March in order to threaten and apply pressure on Taiwan.
According to current international treaties, Taiwan does not belong to China, so how could it split or secede from that country?
The KMT's effort to brainwash the Taiwanese about China's good intentions has resulted in serious divisions over national identity. The KMT has compounded the problem by sticking to its antiquated unification doctrine and by proposing that the nation should tell China that it will not seek formal independence.
The US avoids playing the legal card to protect its Cold War advantages, the KMT avoids it to cover up the illegitimacy of its reign, and China avoids it because its claim lacks legal foundation.
But there is no reason why the DPP should continue to avoid playing this card. In fact, the judicious use of the card is required to break through Taiwan's current diplomatic isolation and to create stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
Shen Chieh is a journalist based in US.
Translated by Daniel Cheng
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