The US' senior director for East Asian affairs at the National Security Council (NSC), Dennis Wilder, told reporters on Thursday that Taiwan's statehood was an undecided issue, and as such it is not qualified to be a member of the UN.
"Membership in the United Nations requires statehood. Taiwan, or the Republic of China, is not at this point a state in the international community. The position of the United States government is that the ROC, Republic of China, is an issue undecided, that it has been left undecided, as you know, for many, many years," said Wilder, during a special White House briefing on US President George W. Bush's trip to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Australia next week.
Wilder said that Bush will explain to Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) US policy toward President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) plan for a UN membership referendum and, at the same time, will express US concern over China's "worrisome" military buildup opposite Taiwan when Bush and Hu meet on the sidelines of the APEC meeting.
Bush and Hu will hold a bilateral discussion in Sydney next Thursday afternoon with Taiwan among the topics to be discussed, Wilder said.
The meeting will be the first time the two leaders have conferred face-to-face since the referendum issue heated up in recent weeks, culminating in an accusation by US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte this week that the referendum is seen in Washington as a move toward a declaration of independence.
The Bush administration "find[s] the attempt by the DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] in Taiwan to call for a referendum on [UN membership] a little bit perplexing as to why this would be useful, given the fact that Taiwan is not going to be able to join the United Nations under current circumstances and that it only adds a degree of tension to cross-straits [sic] relations that we deem unnecessary," Wilder said.
"So the president will talk about this, I'm sure, with Hu Jintao," he said.
Bush "will explain the American position. Hu Jintao usually wants a recommitment by the United States to the three communiques and to our standing one-China policy. I'm sure the president will be willing to give him that," Wilder said.
Bush's reminder to Hu that the US considers Taiwan's status still unresolved would be in stark contrast to Beijing's position that Taiwan is part of China, and would come as China is reportedly considering an attempt to get the UN General Assembly to assert Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan at its meeting next month.
In his remarks, Wilder also noted that Washington is "very supportive of Taiwan on many, many fronts," including efforts to make sure Taiwan is treated "appropriately" in APEC, the WHO and "many other international organizations."
As part of the Bush-Hu discussion of Taiwan, Bush will also call on China "to do things to lower the tensions in the straits [sic]," Wilder said.
"There has been a large-scale, for example, Chinese military buildup opposite Taiwan, and that is worrisome," he said.
"And we certainly do not want to see any situation in which Beijing would consider the use of force or the threat of force against Taiwan," he said.
"We also think Beijing could do more to reach out to the duly elected leaders in Taiwan. We're hopeful, for example, that once elections take place in Taiwan, that Beijing will do more to reach out to those leaders," Wilder said.
"So there are things that Beijing could be doing to ease the tensions as well, and I'm sure the president will be talking to President Hu about that," Wilder said.
In Taipei, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday issued a statement in response to Wilder's remarks.
"Taiwan's independent sovereignty is unquestionable. Such a fact would not be changed because of foreign officials' comments," the statement said. "Taiwan and the US currently do not have an official diplomatic relations, but it would not affect the fact that Republic of China [Taiwan] is an independent sovereignty."
When approached for comment yesterday, DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (
Taiwan, having its own judiciary, military, legislature and budget, and where voters elect their own president, is definitely a country, he said.
DPP Legislator Hsu Kuo-yung (
"We have the four elements -- a people, a territory, sovereignty and the ability to interact with other countries, therefore we are a country. As for recognition, it is just a principle upon which diplomatic relationships can be established," Hsu said.
Hsu said the US denial of Taiwan's statehood was irrelevant given that the US does not have diplomatic ties with the nation.
KMT Legislator Kuo Su-chun (
"It was the DPP's UN referendum plan that provoked the strong reaction from the US which vented its anger on the name `ROC,'" Kuo said.
Kuo said that what Wilder had said would not stop the KMT from pushing for the country's "return" to the UN, even though the US had denied Taiwan's statehood.
"The KMT will make the move at the right time in a practical and acceptable way," she said.
Kuo called on the DPP to back off from its UN proposal and unite with the KMT to make Taiwan visible and audible in the international community.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan & CNA
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