Recently, two articles about Taiwan appeared several days apart in the Honolulu Advertiser (the largest of the two daily newspapers in Hawaii). Richard Halloran's article, "U.S. must defend Taiwan against China," appeared on July 15 (sic).
Oliver Lee's article was published on July 22, titled "U.S. likely won't defend Taiwan from China." (sic) Lee is a retired professor of the University of Hawaii's Political Science Department.
Halloran is a former New York Times correspondent and his column appears weekly in the Honolulu Advertiser Sunday's Focus section.
They hold opposite views on Taiwan's sovereignty and consequences of a forced takeover by China. Lee believes that China can rightfully takeover Taiwan by force and thinks that the US neither has the right nor the willingness to defend Taiwan in such an event. I strongly disagree on both counts. Lee barely touched upon the seriousness of the issue, not to mention the horror immediately confronting the 23 million people of this island nation, which has not been a part of China since 1895. In my view, keeping silent on Lee's assertions can be seen as agreeing with his view points.
Therefore, I submitted my views, "China cannot rightfully take Taiwan by force," to the Honolulu Advertiser and was published on Aug. 3 in its Editorial page (sic).
My rebuttal to Lee's view appears below:
Lee readily accepts that Taiwan is part of China from a historical perspective and the Shanghai Communique of 1972. If historical claims are the sole criterion then Mexico could claim the same of California and Texas. As for the communique one should ask "What is a communique worth?" Nil, except to China and those who want to take the advantage of its cheap manufacturing capacity and access to its mass market. Regarding China's claim on Taiwan, countries have used words such as "acknowledge" (US), "respects and fully understands" (Japan), "takes note," and "admits," but rarely "recognizes."
In fact, any favorable statement towards Taiwan can be extracted from developing countries in exchange for economic aid. The state of international loyalty is such that any wording in a communique can be used to gain access to China's enormous market potential. A communique exacts no international enforceability as a treaty would, even if the word "recognizes" is used. As opposed to a treaty, a communique is not rectified by referendum, congress, parliament, or a legislative body independent of the administration (Lin Yu-chong "What are communiques good for?" Taipei Times, June 25, 2005).
Experts in Taiwanese and Far Eastern affairs such as Harvey Feldman (key architect of the Taiwan Relations Act) and John Tkacik Rethinking of One China; America's Stake in Taiwan) are people in the know. They have stated clearly and repeatedly that the US has never recognized Taiwan as a part of China. The US acknowledged what China said but has never recognized it. Halloran echoed this view in a letter to the editor (July 23). The US has Congress' blessing and the law (Taiwan Relations Act) on its side to defend Taiwan. The US can ill-afford to incur the reputation of abandoning a friend when push becomes shove, a friend and an important trade and strategic partner since the end of World War II.
Since then, the US, South Korea and Japan have recognized the strategic importance of a peaceful Taiwan Strait.