Thu, Mar 15, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Diplomatic setback can be rectified

By Masahiro Matsumura

Amid heavy economic sanctions against North Korea, the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has unexpectedly found that Taiwan is a major facilitator of its nuclear missile program, supplying Pyongyang with indispensable imports.

North Korean media have released footage and photographs showing that Taiwan-made PCs and other equipment are widely used to run the program. The North also evidently used Taiwan to import outdated, yet still effective, machine tools and precision machines, as well as parts and materials.

The involvement of a Taiwanese trader in supplying banned oil to an offshore North Korean tanker was widely covered by international media. In addition, Taiwanese media recently reported that a Kinmen-based laboratory transferred anthrax cultivation technology and kits to North Korea, which presumably aims to load ballistic missiles with the biological agent.

Certainly, Taiwan has long taken little active part in international efforts against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It has few international legal obligations, given that an overwhelming majority of the world’s states no longer recognize the Republic of China as a de jure state and it is without UN membership.

The nation is detached and even isolated from various international export control regimes, precluding it from sharing necessary information in a timely manner with other states and from effectively implementing its own law enforcement measures.

With the North Korea issue becoming increasingly acute, the international community requires Taiwan to practice export control more actively and implement specific measures effectively.

Taiwan has to meet such requirements so that it can secure good informal relations with major liberal democracies and ensure its survival in the international community. This is becoming increasingly important, as the Chinese communist regime wages more substantial anti-Taiwan diplomatic offensives, reinforced by its rapidly growing military pressure.

Therefore, Taiwan should take advantage of this window of opportunity and approach export control regimes vigorously.

An international export control regime is generally based on a gentlemen’s agreement — the norms, principles, rules and decisionmaking procedures of which are not legally binding. It is not based on a treaty, and in principle, requires no de jure status for a partner nation to voluntarily coordinate law enforcement measures for common security interests.

China would certainly display strong displeasure if Taiwan were to join an export control regime, but cannot openly oppose it, particularly because China itself has agreed on sanctions against North Korea.

More specifically, Beijing could not veto a partnership that Taiwan had formed, given that China is largely a regime outsider that sometimes practices export control on a case-by-case basis according its own interests. Export control has occasionally even been applied to China.

As a precaution, Taiwan could initially seek observer status in export control regimes rather than applying for full membership. (The Missile Technology Control Regime offers adherent status only, not observer status.)

China would probably put maximum pressure on existing regime partners to exclude Taiwan, given that Beijing might regard full membership politically significant in strengthening Taiwan’s de facto international standing.

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