The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration has pinned the blame for the nation's series of failed UN membership bids on dictator Chiang Kai-shek's (
Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), an avid campaigner for UN membership before she was elected to office, said it was necessary for the public to understand how the country lost the UN seat in 1971 and for the government to learn lessons from the mistake.
Lu said that following the creation of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, the US government gradually changed its position on the Republic of China's (ROC) UN seat. By the time US president Richard Nixon entered the White House in 1969, worldwide support for PRC membership seemed unstoppable.
In February 1971, Nixon proposed the idea of "two Chinas," with the hope of allowing the ROC to retain the China seat at the UN while allowing the PRC to get its own. A special presidential commission advised that while the PRC should be seated at the UN, "under no circumstances" should the ROC be expelled.
In April the same year, the US State Department said that Taiwan's international status remained undetermined and called on both sides to resolve the dispute through negotiations.
Later that month, US undersecretary of state Robert Murphy was sent by Nixon to Taiwan to persuade Chiang to adopt a new approach and accept "dual representation" for Taiwan and the PRC at the UN so that the ROC could retain its seat in the global body.
Chiang rejected the proposal, insisting that "gentlemen cannot stand together with thieves," meaning that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) could not coexist with Chinese communists.
In July, Nixon's national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, secretly went to Beijing, paving the way for Nixon's trip to China the following year. Nixon, however, emphasized that his government's budding relationship with the PRC would not come at the expense of its old friend Taiwan.
US secretary of State William Rogers told ROC ambassador to the US James Shen (
In August, Rogers issued a statement saying the US was prepared to ask UN members to resolve the question of the ROC seat in the Security Council while adding that Washington would oppose any action to deprive the ROC of its representation.
In September, Nixon publicly announced that the US government was in favor of allowing the PRC a seat at the Security Council.
The 26th session of the UN General Committee convened on Sept. 21, 1971, where US ambassador to the UN George H.W. Bush proposed "dual representation" for Taiwan and China before the General Assembly.
He also presented a resolution making the issue an "important question," meaning that any decision on the matter would require a two-thirds majority for approval rather than a simple majority.
On Oct. 18, 1971, four months before Nixon's scheduled trip to Beijing, the annual UN General Assembly debate began, but the position of most member states was already well known.
Bush presented a new US position, calling for the PRC to be awarded a seat at the Security Council, while allowing the ROC to remain as a member in the General Assembly.
Saudi Arabia submitted a proposition allowing the ROC to retain its seat at the UN and its affiliated organizations "until the people of the Island of Taiwan are enabled by a referendum or a plebiscite" under the auspices of the UN to choose among three options: continued independence as a sovereign state with a neutral status defined by a treaty recorded by the UN; a confederation with the PRC; or a federation with the PRC.