It is commendable that US President Barack Obama pressed Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) on human rights during Hu’s recent visit to the US, compelling him to state China’s commitment to human rights even as the two countries have different national circumstances.
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the new chairwoman of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, is to be praised for personally pressing Hu to improve “China’s deplorable human rights situation.”
However, at a luncheon for businessmen on Jan. 20, Hu declared that “Taiwan and Tibet concern China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and represent China’s core interest,” meaning they are core Chinese territory.
Hu’s statement is a grave violation of the Taiwanese people’s human rights in that it disregards their right to determine their country’s future as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 1), by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 1), by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 1) and by former US president Ronald Reagan’s 1982 assurance to Taiwan.
It ignores the undetermined international status of Taiwan, in as much as Japan, which ruled Taiwan for 50 years after China ceded it in the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki, “renounced all right, title and claim to Formosa and the Pescadores” in the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, but that document said nothing about to which country it ceded those territories (Treaty of Peace with Japan, Article 2b). That effectively left the treaty status of Taiwan undecided. Former US president Harry Truman and former British prime minister Anthony Eden also considered Taiwan’s international status undetermined.
Furthermore, as recently as August 2007, Dennis Wilder, former US president George W. Bush’s National Security Council senior director for Asian Affairs, said “Taiwan, or the Republic of China (ROC), is not a state in the international community and that the position of the US government is that the ROC is an issue undecided and it has been left undecided for many, many years.”
Hu’s statement runs counter to both the US’ “one China” policy and the principles of the three US-China joint communiques, to which the US abides, according to Obama. The US’ “one China” policy means there is only one China, but does not signify recognition of China’s claim that Taiwan is China’s core interest. In the February 1972 communique, the US acknowledged China’s position that “all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain that there is one China and Taiwan is part of China,” but did not state the US’ position on Taiwan’s sovereignty or ultimate status. The January 1979 communique, establishing diplomatic relations between the US and the People’s Republic of China, and the August 1982 communique, dealing with US arms sales to Taiwan, maintain the same position.
More importantly, US acceptance of Hu’s statement that Taiwan is a Chinese core interest will endanger the freedom of the sea and US commercial and security interests in East Asia and the Western Pacific. As last year’s US Secretary of Defense Report to Congress points out, “China’s long-term, comprehensive transformation of its military forces is improving its capacity for force projection and anti-access and area denial,” in other words force projection to the second island chain half-way to Hawaii and denial of US access to the East, South and Southeast Asian region. It could threaten not only US interests, but the “peace, security and stability of the Western Pacific — a danger to US policy,” according to the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), US Public Law 96-8 (TRA, Sec 2a), the third foundation of US-China policy.