Mon, Oct 08, 2007 - Page 8 News List

US choice: principle or realpolitik

By Jerome Keating

Thanks to the US Freedom of Information Act, citizens of Taiwan, the US and the world now know how over 30 years ago US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and US president Richard Nixon sold out their ally Taiwan.

In addition to seeking China's support against the USSR, the fawning way that Kissinger speaks of his Chinese counterparts indicates a man so wanting to be known as the one that opened up China for the US that he would do anything to cut a deal. If it meant selling out one-time allies and the founding principles of the US, so be it.

Kissinger's focus on his desired role along with his contorted Machiavellian interpretation of the realpolitik of life clearly comes through. This, and the continued ignorance that most nations have of Taiwan's real history, provide a necessary backdrop when examining the barrage of criticism that US officials have recently directed at Taiwan.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte led the way in late August when he stated on Chinese TV that Taiwan's consideration of a referendum for UN membership would upset the nebulous "status quo" of the Taiwan Strait. Evidently only Taiwan is capable of influencing the "status quo." Seen separately, these words are easily interpreted as routine, boilerplate placation of China.

However, Dennis Wilder, the US National Security Council senior director for Asian affairs, upped the ante as US President George W. Bush prepared for the APEC leaders' meeting in Sydney, Australia, last month. Wilder declared that Taiwan is not a state in the international community.

What's that? Do 24 countries not recognize Taiwan as a state and didn't 16 countries vote for Taiwan to enter the UN? Are these countries not part of the international community?

Wilder's more revealing remarks came later, when he admitted that Taiwan has been an undecided matter for a long, long time.

He said: "The position of the United States government is that the ROC -- Republic of China -- is an issue undecided, and it has been left undecided, as you know for many, many years."

Wilder's remarks were accurate, so accurate that they revealed a deeper issue. The US is the cause of the undecided nature of Taiwan and it has done nothing or little to resolve this over the years.

In effect, the unresolved status of the 23 million free and democratic people of Taiwan allows the US to use Taiwan as a pawn, a bargaining chip in its dealings with China. Is this going beyond realpolitik and leading to a betrayal of principles?

The US began to dig this hole back in 1952 with the San Francisco Treaty. At that point in history, few would argue against a strategy where an initial ambiguity in a post World War II atmosphere would be best until a clearer course of action could be decided.

Unfortunately, however, now more than a half century later, the US still finds itself with no clearer course of action. In the meantime, it has dug the hole deeper and deeper while trying to posit Taiwan as the cause of the problem.

During that past half century, the US supported various dictators and also entered Vietnam, purportedly on the grounds of fighting for democracy. Ironically it would later seek help from China to help it extricate itself from Vietnam. This was the decade where Kissinger sold out Taiwan and the hole got deeper.

Let's examine another flash point in the world. The US has long been a loyal ally and supporter of the seven million people of Israel, a country smaller in size and population than Taiwan. The current hatred of the US by Islamic states and the resulting costly war on terrorism has certainly been fueled by this US support for Israel. Has this been done out of principle or realpolitik?

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