John Bolton, one of Taiwan's most ardent champions in the Bush administration and a man who once advocated admitting Taiwan as a member of the UN, has been chosen to be the next US ambassador to the UN.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the selection of Bolton, who is now the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, in a ceremony at the State Department on Monday.
Rice said President George W. Bush picked Bolton because "he knows how to get things done. He is a tough-minded diplomat, he has a strong record of success and he has a proven track record of effective multilateralism."
Bolton is "personally committed to the future success of the United Nations and he will be a strong voice for reform," Rice added.
Bolton has long personal and professional ties with Taiwan. Bolton once received a US$30,000 grant from Taiwan's government to write three research papers between 1994 and 1996 advocating ways in which Taiwan might win its way back into the UN.
He wrote those articles when he was an academic with the conservative Washington-based think tank, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), at a time when he was also advocating that Washington recognize Taiwan's independence.
"Diplomatic recognition of Taiwan would be just the kind of demonstration of US leadership that the region needs and that many of its people hope for," Bolton said in a statement cited by AEI in 1999.
By the UN's definition of a "state," Bolton wrote in a 1999 Washington Times article when he was at AEI, "any reasonable person would have to concede that Taiwan as democracy with a population larger than two-thirds of the UN's present members, and one of the world's largest international traders meets the [UN] Charter definition of 'statehood,'" Bolton wrote.
"The palpable unfairness of denying UN representation to the Republic of China reflects not only the petulant opposition of the People's Republic of China, but also the organization's detachment from international reality," he wrote.
Bolton was forced to retract those words when he was tapped by Bush to his present State Department post.
Under tough questioning from leading Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing, including later presidential candidate John Kerry and the committee's ranking Democrat, Senator Joseph Biden, Bolton conceded that "things have changed" since his nomination.
He asserted that "I stand by the analysis," But said, "it's not on my checklist of things to do at the State Department."
Pressed further by Kerry, Bolton said, "It's not my function to advocate diplomatic recognition for Taiwan, and it would be inappropriate for me to do so."
In an incident that underscored Bolton's affection for Taiwan, Bolton bent diplomatic protocol during first lady Wu Shu-chen's (吳淑珍) September 2002 visit to Washington when he approached her after a speech she gave at the AEI and engaged her in conversation. The two then held a 20 minute closed-door meeting.
He told reporters that he met Wu, whose Washington visit was billed as a private trip, as "under secretary of state and an alumnus of AEI."
Ironically, one of Wu's main message during her speech, and during her entire Washington trip, was that Taiwan deserved to be in the UN.
"Even though we are not a member of the United Nations, as long as Taiwan keeps the faith and perseveres, we will eventually be able to join the United Nations again," she told the standing-room-only AEI audience.
"I have confidence that our ongoing effort will enable us to obtain our deserved representation," she said.
While Bolton is likely to be confirmed by the Senate, he might face tough sledding in the process.
The Senate was deeply divided in its approval of his appointment to the anti-proliferation post, voting 57-43 to approve him, with only six Democrats joining a solid Republican vote of 50 in his favor.
Biden, Kerry and other members of the Foreign Relations Committee spoke out strongly against his confirmation on the floor of the chamber partly in view of Bolton's Taiwan stance, and Democrats are certain to mount a strong objection to his elevation to the UN post, citing his strong anti-UN positions in the past.
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