Former American Institute in Taiwan director William Stanton yesterday questioned China’s use of the Cairo Declaration to claim sovereignty over Taiwan, saying that he believes the communique was intended to return Taiwan to the Republic of China.
“To me, the communique’s intention that Taiwan should be given to the Republic of China [ROC] is very clear,” Stanton said during a speech at the International Conference on the 70th Anniversary of the Cairo Declaration in Taipei.
The declaration was signed by then-ROC president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), then-US president Franklin Roosevelt and then-British prime minister Winston Churchill on Dec. 1, 1943, following a conference in the Egyptian capital.
It required that Taiwan, the Pescadores Islands (Penghu) and Manchuria — which were seized by Japan from China — be “restored to the Republic of China.”
“I find Mainland [Chinese] arguments that the Cairo Communique justifies its claims of sovereignty over Taiwan unpersuasive,” Stanton said. “It’s clear to me that, had the People’s Republic of China [PRC] existed in 1943, the US would not have wanted Taiwan to be part of that.”
However, he said that the phrasing of the declaration could have been better because the ROC, Taiwan’s official name, did not exist in 1895 when Taiwan was ceded to Japan after the first Sino-Japanese War. The ROC was established in 1912.
China has argued that the Cairo Declaration includes Taiwan as a part of Chinese territory and therefore belongs to the PRC, which was founded in 1949 after the Chinese Civil War. After the Chinese Civil War. The ROC government retreated to Taiwan after that war.
Yesterday’s conference, hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Chengchi University and Academia Historica, was attended by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), several local and foreign academics as well as former politicians who discussed the impact of the 1943 declaration.
Ma said at the opening of the conference that the declaration has had a “far-reaching” influence in East Asia.
The declaration restricted Japanese territories to four main islands and helped South Korea become an independent nation. It also helped the ROC recover lost territories from Japan, Ma said, adding that the declaration was an “epoch-making event” which helped shape the international order in East Asia after World War II.
It is a “very big mistake” to think that the Cairo Declaration was only a press communique. Both the US and Japan have included the Cairo Declaration, the 1945 Potsdam Declaration and the 1945 Japanese Instrument of Surrender in their official collection of treaties, Ma said, adding that all three documents are legally binding.
Meanwhile, Emma Mary Soames, a granddaughter of Churchill, shared her memories of the British leader at the conference.
She said she knew Churchill not as a great politician, but as a “revered head” of their family, while recounting her childhood interactions with her grandparents.
“The trip to Taipei, learning more about the Cairo conference, is important to my understanding of the influence Churchill had” beyond Europe, the 64-year-old said.
She also paid personal tribute to the many thousands of ROC soldiers who fought alongside the Allied forces during the war.
An exhibition on the summit of the three Allied leaders is also being held at the Academia Historica to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Cairo Declaration. Featuring an array of historic documents and artifacts related to the declaration, it is scheduled to run through Jan. 25 next year.