Sun, Jun 26, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Safeguarding Taiwan’s freedom

By Li Thian-hok 李天福

Even in the face of constraints on military spending, Gates said the US would find money for “air superiority and mobility, long-range strike capability, nuclear deterrence, maritime access, space and cyberspace, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, ... [to] address ... the prospect that new and disruptive technologies and weapons could be employed to deny US forces access to key sea routes and lines of communications.”

Supporting and cooperating with Japan and South Korea to maintain the peace and stability of East Asia is essential to the US military, economic and diplomatic presence in the region, but can this goal be achieved without preserving the “status quo” in Taiwan? As seen above, Beijing sees the conquest of Taiwan as the first step in its hegemony over Asia and ultimately dominance of the whole world.

Assuming that Washington has the wisdom to realize the importance of Taiwan’s freedom to peace and stability in East Asia and ultimately to the security of the US, what can the administration of US President Barack Obama do to preserve Taiwan’s de facto independence from the PRC?

First, the US should make clear its position that the so-called Republic of China (ROC) government on Taiwan has no legitimate claim to sovereignty over Taiwan and the Pescadores. The legal status of these islands is still in abeyance. In the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, Japan gave up its title to Taiwan, but did not state to who the territories were ceded.

Some people argue that because the Taiwanese elect the President of the ROC directly, the ROC has gained sovereignty over Taiwan. This is not the case. The ROC is an exiled government of China, which is now ruled by the PRC government. What the Taiwanese voters confer on the ROC president is merely the power to administer the affairs of the island, not the authority to determine the legal status of Taiwan. That authority resides with the people of Taiwan, under the universally accepted principle of self--determination. So a referendum on the future of Taiwan cannot be conducted by the ROC government, under a law of its creation. The ROC is an alien government, imposed on the Taiwanese by coercion, including a 38-year period of martial law. The democratization of the island has not changed that fact.

Second, Washington should reiterate its policy that the future of Taiwan must be resolved peacefully and with the express assent of the Taiwanese people. To this end, the US needs to consider organizing a consortium of disinterested nations to conduct and supervise a referendum so Taiwanese can freely choose their destiny without any domestic or outside pressure. The US has a moral obligation to intercede in this fashion because it was the US which liberated Taiwan from Japanese colonization in 1945.

Third, the Obama administration should work with the US Congress to speed up the sale of F-16C/D aircraft and other weapons useful in resisting a PLA invasion of Taiwan. Approval of such weapons sales may not help to prevent Taiwan’s fall, if the KMT chooses to surrender Taiwan before the end of next year. However, such action will send a message to Beijing that Washington intends to abide by the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and that the US has decided not to let the 23 million Taiwanese people fall under the CCP’s repressive rule. It will also boost the morale of the Taiwanese to continue fighting for their freedom.

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