Thu, Sep 13, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Washington won't accept Taiwanese UN bid now

By Dean Shueh 薛中鼎

White House National Security Council senior official Dennis Wilder said late last month that "Taiwan, or the Republic of China, is not at this point a state in the international community." Later, I carefully examined the "US Foreign Policy -- Key Documents" section on the American Institute in Taiwan's Web site. Four of the documents are crucial to cross-strait relations: the Shanghai Communique, the Normalization Communique, the Taiwan Relations Act and the 817 Communique.

One should be able to make a reasonable interpretation of the US government's stance after a thorough reading of the three communiques: There is only "one China," and Taiwan is a part of China, but Washington hopes that the cross-strait issue can be resolved through peaceful means by the people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. It also hopes that the lives and wealth of the Taiwanese public can be protected, and that a war in the Taiwan Strait can be avoided.

Hence, former US secretary of state Colin Powell's statement on Oct. 25, 2004, that "Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation," as well as US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte's and Wilder's recent remarks, were basically made in accordance with the spirit of the three communiques.

In other words, the US only recognizes "one China" and will not accept Taiwanese independence. Washington hopes that time will resolve the cross-strait conflict, and it will not interfere with China's "interior affairs." It will not say a word if the two sides can resolve their problems peacefully.

Hence, if Taiwan's UN bid is designed to push the US to express its stance on the matter, Washington will make it even clearer that it opposes Taiwanese independence and its UN bid because Taiwan is part of China. So how should Taiwan's government proceed? Although China will not use force easily and the US will not easily give up its strategic interests in Taiwan, and because Taiwan will not suffer a fatal blow too soon, we still need to measure the strategic gains and losses of the proposed referendum on the UN bid.

History is full of people who have suffered defeat and humiliation only to finally achieve great accomplishments. But there are also numerous stories about disasters caused by impatience. For example, on the eve of the 1894-1895 Sino-Japanese War, the hawks had an upper hand while whoever opposed the war was labeled a traitor. The "pragmatics" were condemned whenever they wished to discuss the two countries' actual combat capacity. Under the banner of patriotism, the Qing Manchu emperor decided to go to war with Japan and was completely defeated.

On the contemporary international stage, both Chechnya and Kosovo have been very brave in their pursuit of independence, yet suffered tragic results.

On the other hand, when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania declared independence and successfully entered the EU and NATO in 2004. These three countries realized their dreams at the most opportune moment.

It is true that a referendum on the UN bid would demonstrate the will of the Taiwanese people, but we have also have to consider the cost and effect of such a move.

As Confucius says in the Analects, "I would not take with me anyone who would try to fight a tiger with his bare hands or to walk across the river and die in the process without regrets. If I took anyone, it would have to be a man who, when faced with a task, was fearful of failure and who, while fond of making plans, was capable of successful execution."

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