Sun, Nov 26, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Nationhood lies in the state's post-war history

By Sim Kiantek 沈建德

On Nov. 19, the Liberty Times ran an editorial saying that James Crawford, a professor of international law at the University of Cambridge, had stated in the new edition of his book The Creation of States in International Law that since Taiwan's government had never claimed that Taiwan was an independent state that was different from the People's Republic of China (PRC), Taiwan was therefore not a country.

But President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has repeatedly spoken of the concept of one country on each side of the Taiwan Strait, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has also publicly declared that Taiwan is not part of China, in effect amounting to a declaration of independence.

However, because the US opposes this assertion of sovereignty, many other nations do not recognize the nation's independent status.

Both the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have relied on the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Declaration to deprive Taiwan of its independence.

Although Japan did not sign either the Cairo Declaration or the Potsdam Declaration, its surrender to allied powers at the end of World War II meant that it too accepted the Cairo Declaration.

If the Cairo Declaration actually returned Manchuria, Taiwan and the Penghu Islands to the Republic of China (ROC), it would have been a treaty. The fact that this document and the Potsdam Declaration were only declarations and that Japan did not sign them does not diminish their legal validity, and this is the crux of the problem.

On Nov. 9, 2003, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) bluffed US President George W. Bush by saying that US president Theodore Roosevelt supported the Cairo Declaration, causing Bush to blame Chen for planning a referendum.

China thus hoodwinked Bush into believing that even if he has no political obligations toward the Chinese government, he does have moral responsibilities. If Taiwan does not clarify this issue, it could well face difficulties.

Fortunately, after over a decade of protests, the latest history texts for high school freshmen in Taiwan have been rectified and now stress that the Cairo Declaration was not legally binding under international law since it was released unsigned.

In February this year, MOFA publicly announced that "China [neither the ROC national government nor the CCP] was not invited and did not participate in the San Francisco Peace Conference. China thus cannot claim sovereignty over Taiwan."

On Nov. 17, the Liberty Times' opinion page ran an editorial piece by Hsueh Hua-yuan (薛化元), in which he made the same mistake about the Cairo Declaration. When it comes to the Potsdam Proclamation, he said that it was signed by the US, China and Great Britain.

This is simply not true. A look at the original Potsdam Declaration reveals that it was only signed by the US. Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) confirmed it "by wire," while Winston Churchill had to rush back to the UK following an electoral defeat, so US president Harry Truman signed the document on his behalf.

Churchill did not authorize Truman to sign on his behalf, and the declaration was modified by the US after receiving Chiang's confirmation. The US released it without informing Chiang of the changes.

There is no Potsdam Proclamation signed by the US, China and Great Britain, and China's claim to sovereignty over Taiwan is a mirage. Taiwan thus has a strong and solid case for changing its national title and writing a Constitution for the ROC.

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