Most international organizations detail in their founding documents how they will deal with membership applications. On face value, the UN is the most open of international organizations. Article 4, Paragraph 1 of the UN Charter states that "Membership in the UN is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present charter and, in the judgment of the organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations."
Five conditions for membership can be enumerated from Article 4, paragraph 1 of the UN Charter: An applicant must (1) be a state; (2) be peace-loving; (3) accept the obligations of the UN Charter; (4) be able to carry out these obligations; and (5) be willing to do so.
On May 28, 1948, the International Court of Justice ruled that a state that meets these five conditions should not be rejected for political reasons.
In light of this ruling, the biggest obstacle to Taiwan joining the UN is the question of statehood. This is something of a gray area, as neither the UN Charter nor other international laws and regulations contain guidelines that can be used to determine whether an applicant is a state or not.
However, although the court ruled that the five conditions in the UN charter are exhaustive, there was a caveat:
"This does not mean, however, that the conditions of Article 4 preclude taking into account relevant political factors that fall within their scope. Appreciation of such factors derives from the very broad and elastic nature of the prescribed conditions and, according to the court, it does not contradict the exhaustive character of these conditions."
In other words, although Taiwan meets at least four of the conditions for UN membership, the fact that there is some doubt as to its statehood provides China with the leverage it needs to oppose Taiwan's membership.
Although an application for UN membership is a legal issue, it is also unavoidably a political matter. Thus, although a Taiwanese declaration of independence is not a legal requirement for membership, it is, in my opinion, a political necessity.
Chiang Shih-hsiung is a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Law at Kobe University.
Translated by Lin Ya-ti
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