ASEAN held its regional forum last week in Bali, Indonesia, against a background of sharply escalating territorial disputes in the South China Sea. On July 23, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was present at the forum, called on all parties to these disputes to abide by international law and “clarify their claims in the South China Sea in terms consistent with customary international law,” rather than just basing them on historical precedent. China has always stressed that its territorial claims in the South China Sea are based on historical fact.
If any country could claim sovereignty over any place based on historical precedent or fact, and if Mongolians and Manchus are counted as part of the great Chinese nation, then the big swathes of European territory once ruled over by the Mongolian empire and the parts of Siberia formerly occupied by the Manchu-ruled Qing Empire would all belong to China, so why doesn’t China claim sovereignty over those territories?
In December 1999, then--Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and then-Russian president Boris Yeltsin signed a protocol in Beijing by which China ceded to Russia territories north of the Amur (Heilongjiang) River and south of the Stanovoy (or Outer Khingan) Range, lands east of the Ussuri River, the Tannu Urianhai region and Sakhalin (Kuye) Island. When added together, these territories are more than 40 times the size of Taiwan, so why did China not invoke historical fact to claim sovereignty over these vast tracts of land? Evidently, China’s -territorial claims are based neither on international law nor on historical fact, but vary according to the whim of its rulers.
Article 2, Paragraph B of the Treaty of San Francisco, which was signed by the member states of the Allied Powers and Japan on Sept. 8, 1951, clearly states that “Japan renounces all right, title and claim to Formosa [Taiwan] and the Pescadores [Penghu],” but the treaty does not assign sovereignty over Taiwan and Penghu to any state.
The Treaty of Taipei, whose signing followed in 1952, does not give sovereignty over Taiwan and Penghu to China, either. Nevertheless, China, with complete disregard for international law, has time and again declared in international forums that Taiwan is part of China, and it seeks to intimidate and oppress Taiwanese through missile deployment, diplomatic isolation and the threat of war. China’s haughty and oppressive actions remain to this day the main factor obstructing Taiwanese from establishing their own independent state.
The US should take the same stand in regard to resolving the Taiwan dispute as it does for resolving territorial disputes in the South China Sea, by asking China to produce legal evidence for its claim to sovereignty over Taiwan, rather than merely basing its claims on historical precedent or fact. If China cannot produce legal evidence to show that it has sovereignty over Taiwan, then the US should ask China to leave it alone, to no longer interfere in Taiwan’s affairs and to stop obstructing Taiwanese efforts to set up their own independent state.
Kuo Cheng-deng is chairman of the Healthy Taiwan Society.
TRANSLATED BY JULIAN CLEGG
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