Responses to MOFA letter
In response to Perry Shen’s (申佩璜) letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs providing “corrections” concerning the Cairo and Potsdam declarations (Letter, Feb. 12, page 8), I would suggest that if the ministry genuinely wants to “prevent similar arguments from causing confusion in the international community over Taiwan’s status” it might start by not transparently revising and obfuscating the historical and legal record to reify ad hoc claims of Republic of China (ROC) legitimacy, sovereignty and authority on Taiwan. Instead, Shen’s letter contained a number of convenient interpretations and outright errors that will likely serve to confuse, so they need some clarification in turn.
First, the provisions of the Cairo Declaration cannot be found in the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, nor did Japan “accept them.” The declaration was a World War II edict designed to unify the Allied forces and bring China firmly on board in the fight against Japan. The promise of Taiwan being “returned” to the ROC was intended as an inducement — one that Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) later capitalized on and was ultimately saved by between the end of the war and the collapse of the ROC in China.
The Cairo Declaration was a communique and not a treaty because it was not intended as a binding agreement. The US asked Chiang to administer Taiwan, but at no point did it signal such an administration should be permanent or a legally binding transfer of Taiwan’s territory to the ROC. In international law, the Qing Dynasty’s Taiwanese colonies were transferred in perpetuity to Japan in 1895, and in 1945 Japan ceded those territories without stating who they ceded them to.
Second, Chen asked why the UK and US did not take over Taiwan at the Japanese surrender. The answer is that at the end of World War II, the UK and US were more concerned with rebuilding Europe and Japan. As the closest allied nation to Taiwan, the ROC was best placed geographically to temporarily administer the former Japanese colony — a contingent outcome of events that suited the US and UK as they engaged in a Cold War with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). That former US president Harry Truman, in the immediate post-war period, accepted the exercise of ROC authority over Taiwan does not equate to him recognizing its legitimacy or authority to do so permanently.
Third, according to the US Congressional Report R41952 of Nov. 19 last year, Taiwan’s legal status has not been confirmed and, rather than failing to gain traction, this tenet remains core US policy: “The United States has its own ‘one China’ policy [different from the PRC’s ‘one China’ principle] and position on Taiwan’s status. Not recognizing the PRC’s claim over Taiwan nor Taiwan as a sovereign state, US policy has considered Taiwan’s status as unsettled.”
Until there is a statement to the contrary, US policy remains consistent on this point. For Shen to falsely claim otherwise owes itself either to his lack of awareness of the US’ Taiwan policy and international law or to a hidden agenda that the falsehood serves to support.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has offered a detailed rebuttal of a commentary regarding the legal significance of the Cairo Declaration by columnist James Wang (王景弘).