FEATURE: Chiang Kai-shek turned the nation into an orphan

'FULLY RESPONSIBLE': The dictator's intransigence and refusal to consider alternative options in 1971 led to the expulsion of Taiwan from the UN, Chen Lung-chu argues

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Thu, Nov 01, 2007 - Page 4

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 (蔣介石) mistake of relinquishing the UN seat in 1971.

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 (沈劍虹) in July to be ready to abandon the seat at the UN Security Council.

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.

During an evening session at the UN on Oct. 25, 1971, Albania submitted a resolution calling for PRC membership and the expulsion of the ROC from all organs of the UN.

The US resolution proposed by Bush lost 59 to 55 in a vote, with 15 abstentions. In response, ROC foreign minister Chow Shu-kai (周書楷) announced the withdrawal of the ROC from the UN.

Albania's resolution (Resolution 2758) passed 76 to 35, with 17 abstentions, while Saudi Arabia's resolution was not voted on.

Bruce Herschensohn, author of the book Taiwan: the Threatened Democracy, said that Albania's resolution was filled with statements that were "totally inaccurate." While the resolution stated that the "lawful rights" of the PRC must be restored, Herschensohn said the PRC had none to restore in the first place. The resolution also asserted that the PRC was "one of the five permanent members of the Security Council," while in reality it had never been one.

"But, as usual, lies caused nothing but yawns to most fellow diplomats," Herschensohn said. "The United Nations organization had exhibited its immorality in giving precedence and honor to the forced rule of China by Mao Zedong (毛澤東)."

Chen Lung-chu (陳隆志), a professor of law at New York Law School and the initiator of the Alliance for Taiwan to Join the United Nations launched in July this year, was the driving force behind Saudi Arabia's resolution.

Formosa, China, and the United Nations, a book Chen co-authored with US political scientist Harold Lasswell in 1967, was the basis of a position paper he distributed at the UN.

"To resolve the problem of Taiwan's UN membership, Taiwan must be recognized as a sovereign nation by the international community," he said.

After obtaining his doctoral degree in law from Yale University in 1964, Chen joined the World United Formosans for Independence to lobby for Taiwan's self-determination and the "one China, one Taiwan" position.

Saudi Arabian UN ambassador Jamail Baroody was impressed with Chen's arguments and invited him for a talk before the UN General Assembly meeting.

"I believed that in the world of power politics, politicians cared nothing more than for power and money," Chen said. "Baroody made me realize that some of them are actually righteous."

Chen said that Baroody, who was close to Chiang, promised he would attempt to persuade Chiang to consider the alternative option. Chiang, however, did not warm to that possibility.

"Chiang should be held fully responsible for turning Taiwan into an international orphan," Chen said. "He did not have the long-term interests of Taiwan in mind."

In 1990, after an 18-year hiatus, the KMT administration made the first attempt to join the UN, which the DPP, after coming to power in 2000, continued to pursue -- still under the name ROC.

Frustrated by years of defeat, the DPP changed its tactic this year and applied for membership under the name "Taiwan," a move that irritated China and the US.

Washington argues the UN bid is an election ploy and describes it as the "apparent pursuit of name change," which makes it "appear ... to be a step intended to change the `status quo.'"