President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government implemented a boycott of former top Japanese representative to Taiwan Masaki Saito after he said that Taiwan’s status remained undecided. Eventually, Saito had to resign for “personal reasons” early this month. This unfortunate outcome is the result of the government’s inability to know what is good for itself, as it is helping China to annex Taiwan while completely disregarding Taiwanese interests.
Based on the San Francisco Peace Treaty, what Saito said is a legal fact. For Taiwan, this state of undecidedness is second in importance only to full recognition as an independent, sovereign state. International support is necessary for Taiwan to protect itself against Chinese annexation.
Under the principles of international law, which do not support interference in the internal affairs of other countries, perhaps the best way for Taiwan to obtain international support is to gain recognition as an independent, sovereign state. Failing this, maintaining its undecided status is the nation’s best option.
Japan does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state. The San Francisco Peace Treaty does not specify who has sovereignty over the nation’s territory. Although China claims Taiwan as part of its territory, Japan merely expresses its comprehension of and respect for that claim, without recognizing its validity. This allows Taiwan to maintain the possibility of asserting de jure independence and autonomy.
If the government had advocated the idea that sovereignty lies with the people and that Taiwan’s democratic transformation has turned it into an independent state separate from China, it would certainly have been in a position to condemn Saito’s “unfriendly” remarks. This, however, is not the government’s stance. It still sees itself as a party to the Chinese civil war and a government in exile that is occupying Taiwan, and wants to link the nation’s sovereignty to China.
The government claims that the Republic of China (ROC) has sovereignty over Taiwan, but has also accepted the “one China” principle, thereby diminishing the nation’s status to that of a region of China. This stance is causing Taiwan even greater damage than Saito’s remark did.
Ma’s pledge that neither unification nor independence would take place during his presidency is inconsistent with his earlier goal of eventual unification, and this is in practice another version of the view that the ROC’s status is undecided. As a consequence, the ROC would disappear if China were to annex Taiwan, which means that Ma’s policy could lead to the annihilation of the ROC.
Saito’s description of Taiwan’s status as undecided is advantageous to the Taiwanese people’s claim to sovereignty, but Ma’s version of Taiwan’s undecided status is advantageous to China’s claim. Saito cares about Taiwan, while Ma cares about China.
James Wang is a media commentator.
TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG
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