Mon, Aug 20, 2018 - Page 6 News List

John J. Tkacik On Taiwan: ‘Surf and Turf’: Maps and the ‘one China’ principle

Last Monday morning (Aug. 13), my attention was attracted to an eye-catching story, complete with photo and maps, in the middle of the Washington Post’s print edition headlined “Small island at heart of a US-Canada boundary dispute.” It seems that, today, in 2018, the two friendliest nations on earth continue an ancient squabble over lobster fishing around a 200-meter wide islet off the Maine and New Brunswick coast. Tiny “Machias Seal Island” is a rock that Britain may, or may not, have ceded to the United States in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. “God forbid if oil or natural gas were ever found here,” one Canadian mariner lamented.

Really? Is it possible that Washington still obsesses over 235-year-old geographic minutiae? No doubt, the US Department of State’s Office of the Geographer is somehow involved with this border punctilio. The “Office of the Geographer” carries out authoritative, government-wide “boundary and sovereignty analysis and research” in close collaboration with the State Department’s Legal Advisor and the oceans, environment and science bureau.

Hence, it is puzzling that the State Department’s country page for “China” (https://www.state.gov/p/eap/ci/ch/index.htm) features prominently a revised map, prepared by that same Office of the Geographer, which shows “Taiwan” as part of “China.” On the other hand, the State Department’s web-based fact sheet for “Taiwan” (https://www.state.gov/p/eap/ci/taiwan/index.htm) shows Taiwan separate from China.

Yet, the “Taiwan” fact sheet further confuses matters by showing the “Kinmen Islands” — sometimes rendered in its Zhangzhou (漳州) pronunciation as “Quemoy” — as part of Taiwan! How does the State Department get THAT wrong? The US government has always considered Kinmen and Matsu as “Chinese” territory. As Secretary John Foster Dulles explained to the Senate committee considering the US-Republic of China Mutual Defense Treaty in 1954: “The legal position [of Quemoy and Matsu] is different, by virtue of the fact that technical sovereignty over Formosa and the Pescadores has never been settled [….] Therefore the juridical status of Formosa is different from the juridical status of the offshore islands [Quemoy and Matsu] which have always been Chinese territory.” The Mutual Defense Treaty, said Dulles, would not cover the offshores because they were “Chinese” territory — Taiwan was not.

In late 1954, the Senate was relieved to hear this because Communist China had just launched a broad campaign to clear Nationalist forces from all China’s offshore islands. The United States Navy was in the middle of evacuating of Nationalist troops and civilians from the Ta-chen Islands (大陳群島), and was bracing for Communist attacks on Quemoy and Matsu. The Senate was not eager for American forces to be treaty-bound to defend the Nationalists on indefensible coastal redoubts.

That Quemoy and Matsu “have always been Chinese territory” was something Premier Zhou Enlai (周恩來) in Peking and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) in Taipei actually agreed on.

In February 1972, Premier Zhou wryly reminded visiting US President Richard Nixon that: “… in 1958, then-Secretary Dulles wanted Chiang Kai-shek to give up the islands of Quemoy and Matsu so as to completely sever Taiwan and the mainland and draw a line there. Chiang Kai-shek was not willing to do this. We also advised him not to withdraw from Quemoy and Matsu.”

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