Sat, Aug 16, 2008 - Page 1 News List

No bid for full UN membership

PROBLEM Ma Ying-jeou said the failure of the UN referendums had left the country with less room to strive for UN membership from a legal perspective

By Jenny W. Hsu and Shih Hsiu-Chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS IN TAIPEI AND ASUNCION

Taiwan will seek “meaningful participation” in the 16 auxiliary agencies of the UN and forgo the quest for full membership this year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

“Our approach this year is based on the principles of pragmatism and flexibility to meet the expectations of the public,” said Andrew Hsia (夏立言), deputy foreign minister, adding that the tactic did not mean the government had given up on seeking full membership in the future.

The text of the ministry’s proposal called for the General Assembly to consider “the fundamental rights of the 23 million people of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to participate meaningfully in the activities of the United Nations specialized agencies.”

The proposal, cosponsored by 17 of Taiwan’s allies — but not the Vatican, Haiti, Guatemala, Paraguay, Panama and the Dominican Republic — must first pass the General Affairs Committee on Sept. 16 before going to the General Assembly.

Only three of Taiwan’s allies are on the 28-member committee.

“It is an extremely difficult task,” Hsia said, adding that Beijing was the stumbling block in Taiwan’s bid to join international organizations.

“The ministry urges China to understand the expectations and will of the 23 million people of Taiwan and calls on Beijing to respond with goodwill and flexibility,” he said.

“China claims it wants to win the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese people. What could be a better way than to stop obstructing our UN bid?” he said.

Hsia said that the focus at this point was not what name the nation should use to join the organization “because the name will not become an issue until the international community has reached a consensus welcoming Taiwan into the fold.”

Hsia said major players such as the US and the EU had reacted “more positively” this year than in previous years.

American Institute in Taiwan spokesman Thomas Hodges declined to comment on the US’ reaction to the strategy except to repeat Washington’s policy that the US does not support membership for Taiwan at international organizations that require statehood, but supports meaningful participation in organizations where full membership is not possible and organizations where statehood is not required.

This year will be Taiwan’s 16th appeal to the UN since 1993 after it forfeited its seat in 1971. Last year Taiwan’s bid sparked strong opposition from the US, EU countries and other countries. The bid used the name “Taiwan.”

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said at a press conference in Paraguay that this year’s strategy would help the public participate in the UN without harming the nation’s diplomatic interests and cross-strait relations.

Ma said the government was handling the bid in a cautious manner in view of the failure of the two referendums on the country’s membership in the UN earlier this year.

He was referring to the fact that neither the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-initiated referendum on “rejoining” the UN under the name “Republic of China” or any other practical title that would uphold the country’s dignity, nor the Democratic Progressive Party-backed referendum on joining the UN using the name “Taiwan” passed the voter threshold.

Ma said the government had three considerations in mind in determining the bid — public opinion, the reality of the international community and the consequences of the two failed UN referendums.

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