On April 12 and 13, US President Barack Obama’s administration is convening a nuclear security summit in Washington. This is an important event with potential to make the world a safer place. Only days ago, it was announced that Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) would also attend the summit.
After the turnaround in China’s position — it had earlier indicated little interest in attending the summit with a high-level delegation — Obama had a lengthy telephone conversation with Hu. The call took place on April 1, when Obama’s plane had just landed at Andrews Air Force Base after a fundraising trip to New England.
News reports of the event said that the discussion covered the Iranian nuclear dispute, and “China’s demands over Tibet and Taiwan.” News reports also quoted Hu as saying that “the Taiwan and Tibet issues are key to China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and relate to China’s core interests.”
We do not know what Obama’s response was to these “concerns” expressed by Hu, but we hope he avoided the confusing reiterations of the US’ “one China” policy given by US officials since former US president Bill Clinton’s infamous “three noes” in Shanghai in 1998.
All too often “one China” is interpreted as meaning that Taiwan is part of China. This is not the US position, nor that of the European nations. Yes, we have a “one China” policy, but this simply means that we only recognize one government — the one in Beijing — as the government of China. As far as Taiwan is concerned, the US position is that its future should be determined peacefully — in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act — and with the assent of the people of Taiwan.
We also hope that Obama avoided acknowledging Taiwan as being related to China’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity.” This term unfortunately found its way into the US-China Joint Statement at the end of Obama’s visit to Beijing in November last year. The US side subsequently clarified its position, explaining that the term only related to the status of Tibet and Xinjiang (East Turkestan), and not to Taiwan. For their part, the Chinese grabbed their chance and emphasized time and again that it did relate to Taiwan, and that this was one of China’s “core interests.”
Against that background, it is essential that the Obama administration make it clear to China that a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue is a core interest of the US.
In fact, this is the basic essence of a law passed by the US Congress in 1979, the Taiwan Relations Act. And since we support the principle of democracy, we should also emphasize that such a resolution can only be successful if it is in full agreement with the democratic wishes of the people of Taiwan.
It is evident that China is a rising power. However, it is a power that eschews the principles of democracy for which we stand, and flagrantly violates those principles in its dealings with Tibet and East Turkestan. While we may need China in order to help resolve major global issues like nuclear proliferation or global warming, we need to make sure that China’s cooperation does not come at the cost of Taiwan’s future as a free and democratic nation, or at the cost of democracy in general.
In other words: We should not use Taiwan as a pawn on the chessboard of world affairs. The Taiwanese have worked hard to achieve their democracy. It is essential that Obama makes it crystal clear to Hu that Taiwan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity should not be infringed upon in any way, so that the people of Taiwan can make a free decision on their future.
Nat Bellocchi is a former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan and a special adviser to the Liberty Times Group. The views expressed in this article are his own.
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