Tue, Aug 22, 2017 - Page 8 News List

The Achilles’ heel of PRC and ROC

By Peter Chen 陳正義

The Cairo Declaration of Dec. 1, 1943, is often cited as the legal foundation for the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) and the Republic of China’s (ROC) claims to territorial sovereignty over Taiwan.

The declaration, in international law, was not a binding commitment, but a mere joint communique by then-US president Franklin Roosevelt, then-president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and then-British prime minister Winston Churchill, and was announced four days after the conclusion of the Cairo Conference on joint war plans.

The declaration was the first articulation of Allied war aims in the Pacific. It pledged “that all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa [Taiwan], and the Pescadores [Penghu], shall be restored to the Republic of China.”

This goal was set privately and informally without a binding commitment between Chiang and Roosevelt. Churchill’s memoirs do not mention the declaration at all.

During the conference, “without the inhibiting presence of a knowledgeable American at his side,” Roosevelt conferred with Chiang “privately about three or four times,” with Chiang’s wife Soong Mayling (宋美齡) serving as the sole interpreter, said US diplomat John Davies, who was at Cairo as US general Joseph Stilwell’s aide.

Roosevelt briefed Stilwell and Davies afterward. Stilwell knew that US strategy for the Pacific War involved a planned invasion of Taiwan in 1944 by US forces without the participation of Chiang’s Nationalist army.

However, Davies’ notes of Roosevelt’s briefing show that “FDR [Roosevelt] believed that a display of generosity, gratuitous offerings of enemy territory to the Chinese ... would persuade Chiang to stay in the war against Japan.”

“The [US] president’s liberality with other people’s real estate was also part of his show of good faith and noblesse oblige meant to sweeten the generalissimo’s dislike of foreign devils,” Davies wrote.

The declaration was a statement of intent, and Roosevelt’s successor, former US president Harry Truman, reiterated the Cairo aims on July 26, 1945, in the Potsdam Declaration without explicitly mentioning Taiwan.

After Japan surrendered, the Japanese emperor on Sept. 2, 1945, ordered his commanders in Taiwan to surrender to Republic of China forces who had arrived to occupy Taiwan “on behalf of the allies.”

The final determination of the legal status of Taiwan was to be formalized in a general peace treaty with Japan, preparations for which took several years, and were complicated in the interim by the overthrow of the ROC government and its exile to Taiwan.

At the start of the Korean War in 1950 and the PRC’s subsequent war against the UN there, then-US president Harry Truman stepped away from the Cairo pledges.

The new security situation in the Far East impelled Truman to state that “the determination of the future status of [Taiwan] must await the restoration of security in the Pacific, a peace settlement with Japan, or consideration by the United Nations.”

In a letter to the UN General Assembly, dated Sept. 20, 1950, the US, citing both the Cairo and Potsdam declarations and the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, said: “Formal transfer of Formosa to China was to await the conclusion of peace with Japan or some other appropriate formal act.”

On Dec. 8, 1950, Truman and then-British prime minister Clement Attlee were faced with a communist Chinese invasion of Korea against the UN, the US and Britain.

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