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Taiwan's Right to Representation in the United Nations:

Today the United Nations General Assembly convenes in its 61st session. Unfortunately, the legitimacy of the General Assembly, and of the United Nations itself, is undermined by the exclusion of the free, democratic, and independent nation of Taiwan from membership--in contravention of the UN Charter.

It might seem futile even to raise the issue of Taiwan's exclusion, since China is adamant that Taiwan will never be admitted to the United Nations. But even though a great power may persist for decades in trying to block the admission of an independent state to the UN, diplomatic circumstances and priorities can change, over time — as was demonstrated, for example, by the awarding of the China seat to the Mao regime in 1971 (following decades of U.S. opposition). In any case, it is important for the public and the diplomatic community to recognize the illegitimacy of Taiwan being denied its rightful place in the United Nations.

The UN Charter, article 4, states that "Membership in the United Nations is open to all other [non-founding] peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations." Taiwan is indisputably a "peace-loving" state — in marked contrast to China, which not only makes threats against Taiwan, but supplies arms and financial support to warlords, dictators, and genocidaires around the world, including in Sudan.

Since Taiwan is "peace-loving," it is necessarily entitled to UN membership, according to the UN Charter, as long as Taiwan is a "state" that is capable of carrying out various UN obligations. Plainly Taiwan is such a state.

Taiwan is self-governing. Indeed, Taiwan exercises far more complete self-government than has been exercised by some UN member states — such as Lebanon during its period of colonization by Syria, or the Warsaw Pact nations during the period of Soviet hegemony.

Taiwan encompasses a well-defined territory, consisting of the island of Taiwan itself, plus dozens of smaller islands in the Taiwan Strait, the most important of which are the Pescadores. In contrast, some UN member states (such as India and Pakistan) have disputed or unresolved borders.

Taiwan's government is sovereign over its entire territory. Again, some UN member states do not exercise full sovereignty over their nominal territories; for example, Pakistan has only limited control over the northwest frontier province and the federally administered tribal areas. Likewise, Lebanon's government is far from fully sovereign in southern Lebanon.

In addition, Taiwan's population of over 23 million is larger than most UN member states. Taiwan has developed a republican form of government, and achieved a very good record on human rights — putting Taiwan far ahead of scores of UN member states, and much closer to full compliance with the founding ideals of the United Nations, as well as the many UN human rights treaties and declarations.

As the Declaration of Independence explains, self-government is the foundation of legitimate sovereignty; accordingly, Taiwan's current democratically-elected government exercises a legitimate sovereignty which is not possessed by the dictatorship in China nor by the dozens of other dictatorships which have UN delegations.

Taiwan clearly fulfills the four criteria of de facto statehood, as articulated in Article 1 of the 1933 Montevideo Convention: "(a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states." Notably, even if China succeeded in convincing every country in the world to terminate formal diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, Taiwan would still, legally, be an independent state; as Montevideo's article 4 declares: "The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states."

In 1971, the United Nations gave the China seat at the UN to the Mao Zedong dynasty, the seat having formerly been held by the Chiang Kai-shek dictatorship. The UN's decision was reasonable: the Chiang regime had lost the Chinese civil war in 1949, and, although the regime still made a nominal but ridiculous claim to rule China, it was clear in 1971 that for the last 22 years, the sovereign in China had been Mao, not Chiang, and there was no prospect of that situation changing. Resolution 2758 addressed solely the question of which regime was entitled to hold the "China" seat, and did not purport to resolve anything regarding Taiwan's independence.

The Mao dynasty in China has, since 1949, claimed sovereignty over Taiwan, but never has actually exercised a shred of sovereignty. Fifty-seven years of actual independence is more than sufficient for the Taiwan to deserve recognition as an independent state.

In terms of the right to admission to the United Nations, all that matters is Taiwan's status now as an independent, peace-loving state. Even if Taiwan had been part of China for 3,500 years, the most recent 57 years of independence entitle Taiwan to UN membership. However, it should be noted that the historical and international law record is more supportive of Taiwan's independence than of China's claim to sovereignty over Taiwan.

The history of Chinese government is very old, dating back to the Shang dynasty in the middle of the second millennium BC. Many Chinese dynasties rose and fell in the following centuries — but not until three thousand years later did any government on the continent of Asia claim to rule even a portion of the island of Taiwan. (However, the Quemoy Islands, which are very close to the Chinese coast, and which are currently ruled by the Taipei government, were historically part of China.) In 1683, China's government did establish some control over western Taiwan, and this control lasted for two centuries. For almost all of this period, the Chinese explicitly denied that they were sovereign over eastern Taiwan. One purpose of the denial was to avoid taking responsibility for the pirates who operated from eastern ports; and the Chinese's government's inability to suppress the pirates is one indication that China was correct in claiming not to exercise sovereignty in the east.

Only for 17 years (some other historians say 8 years) in the late 19th century did China actually declare sovereignty over all of Taiwan. This is trivially short period in the scope of Taiwanese and Chinese history.

Significantly, China renounced any claim to sovereignty over Taiwan, in the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki, and Taiwan was ceded to Japan. Japan ruled the entire island of Taiwan from 1895 to 1945 — that is, three times as long a China ruled the entire island. Ever since the sixteenth century, Japan had claimed sovereignty over eastern Taiwan. Thus, Japan's claim of sovereignty over one side of the island is actually two centuries longer and more senior than China's claim of sovereignty over the other side. Today, we would hardly claim that Japan's historical record of sovereignty over Taiwan entitles Japan to rule Taiwan against its will; a fortiori, the weaker record of Chinese sovereignty cannot give China a right to rule Taiwan against its will.

In the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, which formally ended World War II, and the 1952 Treaty of Taipei (between Japan and Taiwan), Japan renounced all claims to Taiwan. Significantly, neither treaty stated that Taiwan was now part of China.

In the unsigned 1943 Cairo Declaration, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Chiang stated that "Manchuria, Formosa [Taiwan's Japanese name], and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China." Although it is doubtful that Cairo created binding international law, the literal effect of the language is consistent with Taiwan's current, independent existence as the "Republic of China," and inconsistent with Taiwan being subsumed into the "People's Republic of China"; certainly the Communist tyranny which Mao hoped to establish was not an intended beneficiary of the Cairo Declaration. To the contrary, the intent of the parties of the Cairo Declaration would be to construe each and every word against a Mao regime and its successors. The Cairo Declaration is also referenced in the Potsdam Declaration.

The fact that China persists in a claim of sovereignty of Taiwan, and sometimes makes military threats, cannot be considered a proper reason for denying UN membership to Taiwan. After all, North Korea and South Korea were each admitted to the UN, even though the North Korean tyranny claims sovereignty over South Korea, and legally remains in a state of war with South Korea. (The Korean War was ended by an armistice, which was executed in the expectation that a peace treaty would be negogiated later, but there has been no such treaty.)

During a 1998 visit to China, President Clinton said that he opposed admitting Taiwan to the United Nations. The U.S. House of Representatives promptly rebuked him, voting 390-1 for a Resolution (H. Con. Res. 301) by which Congress "affirms its strong support, in accordance with the spirit of the Taiwan Relations Act, of appropriate membership for Taiwan in international financial institutions and other international organizations."

Rather than kowtowing to the Chinese dictatorship, all freedom-loving nations and peoples should stand in support of Taiwan's right to self-determination and to membership in the United Nations.

Further reading: Parris Chang & Kok-ui Lim, "Taiwan's Case for United Nations Membership," UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs (1997).

jimbino (mail):
Nations use the UN when it serves their purposes and ignore it when it doesn't. What exactly does Taiwan lose by not being a member of the UN? Do I care if that Pope has barred me from the College of Cardinals?
9.12.2006 7:34pm
Steve:
Good post, Dave. It always burns me to see us kowtowing to China on this, pretending like Taiwan doesn't even exist so we don't offend their almighty sensibilities.

Has Congress changed its position on Taiwan since 1998?
9.12.2006 7:37pm
SG:
Fascinating post. I was completely ignorant of how much legitimacy Taiwan's claims to statehood held.
9.12.2006 7:49pm
Justin (mail):
To follow up on jimbino's post, including Taiwan would be a mostly political move that would lead to an increased risk, rather than a decreased risk, of global warfare. This seems antithetical to the central purpose of the UN. Maybe excluding Taiwan is against some of the pronouncements of the UN, but a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of lesser minds.
9.12.2006 7:50pm
Gordo:
Question: Has the Taiwan, formerly the "Republic of China," ever officially renounced its claims to the mainland?
9.12.2006 7:58pm
Chris 24601 (mail):
What has happened to Taiwan's own "nominal but ridiculous claim to rule China"?



[DK: I'm not sure if the DPP (democratic reformers who defeated KMT) government has officially renounced the claim, but nobody in Taiwan these days claims that the government in Taipei is actually the true government of China. Indeed, the KMT folks who cling to the old "one China" language are now in favor of Taiwan being put under the sovereignty of the Beijing regime -- similar to the situation in Hong Kong. So the claim that the Taipei government is the ruler of China is dead, in practice.


As the UCLA article explains, one of the successful tactics of the democratic opposition to the KMT in the 1990s was to urge that Taiwan seek membership in the United Nations. This position was very popular with the public. The diplomatic offensive for UN membership, which is still being pushed by Taiwan's now-democratic government, necessarily involved abandoning the claim that the government in Taiwan was the true sovereign of China. As the Taiwanese--including their government--acknowledge, there is one seat for China in the UN, and that seat belongs to the Mao dynasty.]
9.12.2006 8:00pm
Steve:
To follow up on jimbino's post, including Taiwan would be a mostly political move that would lead to an increased risk, rather than a decreased risk, of global warfare.

Not to overuse the term, but this does sound a bit like appeasement. I'm not sure I agree, either. I'd think that the world's attitude of basically cowering in fear when it comes to challenging China would encourage, rather than discourage, any military action China might contemplate. I'd prefer a world where China worried that messing with Taiwan might lead to actual consequences.
9.12.2006 8:15pm
gvibes (mail):
Gordo; Chris 24601: Why would any such claims be relevant to whether Taiwan deserves admittance into the United Nations?
9.12.2006 8:16pm
Jeff R.:
gbibes: if they were still held strongly enough, they might prevent Taiwan from accepting any seat at the UN other than the China one...
9.12.2006 8:19pm
John (mail):
What, exactly, is the basis for your apparent belief that this is an issue to be resolved by reasoning, logic or some notion of fairness?

This is an issue that deals with pride, greed and military strength, and until those issues are dealt with there is not much point to reasoning about anything.
9.12.2006 8:20pm
Gordo:
gvibes: If Taiwan still officially claims to be "China," then the UN has to make a choice as to which government it recognizes for the entire territory of China - and the choice is obvious.

If Taiwan has, however, renounced its claim to be "China," then it has a much better case, more in common with, say East Timor.
9.12.2006 8:22pm
jvarisco (www):
Accepting Taiwan as a "state" would be to give legitimacy to any separatist group that decided it wanted out of an existing nation. You would then have to grant legitimacy to Chechnya, the Tamils, the Kurds in Iraq, etc. How would we have felt if the world had decided to recognize the Confederacy during our own Civil War? We should stop protecting Taiwan and let it be returned to China, where it rightfully belongs.
9.12.2006 8:27pm
Jacob T. Levy (mail) (www):
Taiwan hasn't renounced its claim to be the legitimate government of China, and in that sense hasn't presented to the UN the question to which David has provided the obviously correct answer, "Should an independent Taiwan, separated from mainland China, be recognized as a sovereign state and admitted to the UN?"

Now, Taiwan hasn't done so because doing so would require a declaration of independence, a formal renunciation of the one-China principle-- and China has plainly said it will go to war if Taiwan does this. China would rather have Taiwan formally committed to ruling the mainland, and thus committed to one-China, than have Taiwan renounce its claim and therefore renounce one-China.

So Taiwan's left unable to ask the right question-- it can't present itself as an independent sovereign state which makes no claim on China. This is a blot on the UN, but isn't actually the UN's fault.
9.12.2006 8:31pm
TLove (mail):

jvarisco:
Accepting Taiwan as a "state" would be to give legitimacy to any separatist group that decided it wanted out of an existing nation. You would then have to grant legitimacy to Chechnya, the Tamils, the Kurds in Iraq, etc. How would we have felt if the world had decided to recognize the Confederacy during our own Civil War? We should stop protecting Taiwan and let it be returned to China, where it rightfully belongs.


We would then have to grant every claim everywhere, because we granted one not terribly similar claim once? Taiwan is the product of an informally ended civil war. Lots of countries, lots of times, got split up in civil wars, any many more tried. The notion that settling the outcome of one civil war requires the identical settlement to all civil
wars (if such a thing was possible) is silly.

As far as some of the groups you mention, they are diligently working on this issue, each in their own fashion. My guess is most of the people involved in those issues couldn't find Taiwan on a map with both hands and a flashlight, and could care about it even less.

As far as other countries recognizing the Confederacy, I guess how you felt would depend on which side you were on. The Confederacy was working diligently on recognition by France and Britain, both of whom favored it, but were forestalled in 1862 by events at Antietam, and in 1863 by events at Gettysburg. Both countries would have happily recognized the south had either battle, or others, gone the other way. The south had no difficulty selling government bonds in the UK early in the war (how's that for meddling, goodness gracious, financing arms purchases!), payable in either cotton or gold. My partner has one of those bonds, with coupons missing, hanging on his office wall.

And for that matter, how do you feel about France meddling in another civil war, namely the one that formed the US? They recognize George and the gang solely and exclusively to tweak the Brits' nose, and it worked.

As for where it "rightfully" belongs, I gathered that that was the point of the post: arguably, it "rightfully" belongs either where it is, or as part of Japan.
9.12.2006 8:41pm
Gordo:
While Taiwan has a legitimate and strong claim to independence, I doubt the wisdom of upsetting the diplomatic status quo at this time. My understanding is that the U.S. has made it clear to China that any military attempt to retake Taiwan will result in U.S. intervention.

If I were the Taiwanese leader, instead of declaring independence I would tell China, "We will rejoin you as one nation when your system of government, rule of law, and respect for individual rights in indistinguishable from that which we enjoy on Taiwan now. Until then, we'll just keep the status quo." The chance of China taking Taiwan up on its offer are, at this point, extremely slim to nonexistent, but it would avoid the provocation of an outright declaration of independence.
9.12.2006 8:52pm
Dan28 (mail):
This legal analysis is mildly interesting but mostly irrelevant. Every independent observer understands that Taiwan should be an independent state - just as probably all independent observers think that Tibet should be independent. But, in the real world, diplomacy involving Taiwan is an extremely sensitive subject. Taking an aggressive, principled stand like the one advocated in this post would be a foreign policy disaster, especially in the subtle face-saving world of Asian diplomacy. To put it bluntly, it could be interpreted by the Chinese as a declaration of war. And the Chinese care a lot more about this issue than we do. If China were to launch an invasion of Taiwan - a perfectly plausible possibility if the international community took such an aggressive, slap-in-the-face action to recognize Taiwan - I suspect it would be the United States, not the Chinese, who would back down.

There is no reason to take such an aggressive action. Taiwan is a free nation already, and its de facto sovereignty can be effectively policed by the United States. To risk their de facto sovereignty, and potentially millions of lives, over the mostly symbolic issue of de jure sovereignty would be very foolish.
9.12.2006 8:58pm
JohnAnnArbor:
Isn't North Korea technically at war with the United Nations, as represented by the peninsula's United Nations Command?

Leave it to the UN to admit, as a member nation, a nutball dictatorship they're technically at war with.
9.12.2006 9:05pm
Brendan (mail):
The American Revolution was fought over less of an issue than Taiwain current status with mainland China. The logic that Taiwain should go along to get along is foolish and the analogy between the Union and the Confederate to China and Taiwan is dispicable. Furthermore - a regime like China's can be broken by standing up to it at every point - that's what Reagan taught us. China's military is a joke, their financial stability depends on us, not vice versa. It's disgusting that people would hand Taiwan over to the butcher rather than stand up for freedom. "Liberty for me, but not for thee."




Clinton's record on China is also a joke, high tech secrets basically given away, illegal donations, and cowering over Taiwan.
9.12.2006 9:06pm
jgshapiro (mail):
I think Jacob Levy and John have it right.

First off, Taiwan has never officially declared independence, nor to my knowledge, has the United States or other major powers ever formally recognized Taiwan as an independent nation-state. We deal with them as such (virtually), though I am not sure we have an ambassador there. But they do not have all the trappings of a state.

The reason is that were they to assume those trappings, China would declare war to preserve their claim to Taiwan. Which brings us to John's point, that this is not a matter of logic, but one of pragmatism: Is admitting Taiwan to the UN worth a military confrontation between the U.S. and China? One that could well destroy most of the land and kill many of the people we are fighting over?

This post is a classic example of ivory-tower thinking: in order to be consistent, we should turn a blind eye to the realities of what that would entail.

As a follow up post, perhaps Prof. Kopel can examine why we continue to maintain a worthless unilateral embargo of Cuba while regularly doing business with other communist states, such as China and Vietnam, that are far bigger violators of human rights, that pose far bigger threats to us and our allies (China) and that fought a war with us that cost 60,000 U.S. lives and wounded another 150,000 U.S. soldiers (Vietnam).

Oh, wait - the Florida vote. Nevermind.
9.12.2006 9:08pm
JohnAnnArbor:

Oh, wait - the Florida vote. Nevermind.

The guy did aim nuclear missiles at us from short range.
9.12.2006 9:12pm
Dan28 (mail):

The guy did aim nuclear missiles at us from short range.

Is this sarcasm? I assume you don't actually think there is a meaningful difference between aiming nuclear missiles at us from short range and aiming them at us from long range, as the Chinese do.
9.12.2006 9:17pm
Ming the Merciless Siamese Cat (mail):
This is all very interesting (and well documented elsewhere) and entirely irrelevant.

No UN member country of any substance would support a Taiwanese bid for membership, including the US.

Even if they did, China would veto such membership.

Nor would Taiwan seek such membership.

And, were Taiwan to do so, or otherwise assert its status as a de jure independent state, the PRC would commence military operations against it.

The CCP has, post Tiananmen, based its legitimacy entirely upon patriotic nationalism, to which the claim of sovereignty over Taiwan is central. The CCP could not survive the "loss" of Taiwan and nothing is more important to the CCP than the survival of its one-party rule over China. Understand this and you understand that a military response to Taiwanese independence would be, to the CCP, not a war over territory but rather a war for survival.

NOTE: While I agree that China's 'legal' claim to Taiwan is weak (and would be happy to see an independent Taiwan), I think your Cairo Declaration argument is too clever by half. When the PRC replaced the RoC as sovereign of China, it would have stepped into the RoC's shoes with respect to its rights to Taiwan. You cannot claim, as you do, that some pre-PRC international agreements relating to Taiwan apply to the PRC as China's successor government, while others do not. The fact the the Cairo Declaration recognized the then government of China's claim to Taiwan actually works in favor of the PRC's claim.
9.12.2006 9:30pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Question: Has the Taiwan, formerly the "Republic of China," ever officially renounced its claims to the mainland?
No, but since the PRC has promised war if Taiwan declares independence, this (while not precisely a declaration of independence) might be a little risky.
9.12.2006 9:39pm
VFB (mail):
While we are on the topic of Taiwan, I was wondering if anyone can settle one of the great mysteries about them. Why don't they develop nuclear weapons, and then formally declare independence from the mainland? If they had nuclear weapons, that would preclude the possibility of China invading. They are a high tech country, that can probably develop them quickly, and sufficiently secretly that China will not find out until it is done.
9.12.2006 9:40pm
Ming the Merciless Siamese Cat (mail):
VFB:

They don't develop nuclear weapons because: (1) the US (Taiwan't benefactor) opposes it; (2) because of the likelyhood that the initiation of a nuclear program would trigger a pre-emptive Chinese invasion; and (3) because it is by no means certain that the PRC would not risk a nuclear exchange with Taiwan to prevent independence (see my comment re; 'war of survival above).

Indeed, there are some reports that China has explicitly informed Taiwanese authorities that any attempt to develop nuclear weapons would result in a preemptive invasion.
9.12.2006 9:50pm
Dan Simon (www):
all freedom-loving nations and peoples should stand in support of Taiwan's right to self-determination and to membership in the United Nations.


What did the people of Taiwan do, that freedom-loving nations and peoples should wish upon them the miserable fate of being caught in a cesspit like the UN?

It's time for "freedom-loving nations and peoples" to stop encouraging their like to join the UN, and instead start pulling out themselves. Their time, money, energy and political and moral capital are being utterly squandered there. If they really need a place to send their ineffectual, corrupt and morally bankrupt diplomats, there's no shortage of international organizations where they can have just as much fun while doing less damage.
9.12.2006 9:55pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
Re: China and military action and US intervention:

The U.S. has not always been clear on what it would do if China invaded Taiwan. The vagueness is purposeful: the thought is that if China doesn't know, they might not risk it. But if we commit either way, then China can calculate. For example, if I were China, now might be when I invaded, if I were just thinking militarily: would the U.S. public support ANOTHER deployment to a foreign shore? Probably not. Taiwan's strategy as to invasion is to hunker down until the U.S. or someone else steps in to help, since their military is modern, but still no eventual match for the PRC military. I'm not sure who would help at the moment.


Re: Upsetting the status quo

Taiwan operates as an independent country. We don't have an embassy there, but we have some sort of American Institute on Taiwan (I forget the exact name) that function in the same way. Everyone (including China) knows Taiwan is independent, but no one can say it. Not the best state of affairs, but not really one worth waging war over, at least not when we are not in a position of strength at the moment.

The problem, a some mentioned, is that Chinese have this thing about pride and face. And just as China going to war over Taiwan's name change would be more pride than logic, so too is the Taiwanese clamor for recognition.


Re: Nuclear weapons.

My understanding is that Taiwan does indeed have nuclear weapons. But China has 1.3 billion people. I don't think Taiwan has enough.
9.12.2006 10:26pm
JohnAnnArbor:

I assume you don't actually think there is a meaningful difference between aiming nuclear missiles at us from short range and aiming them at us from long range, as the Chinese do.

Actually, there is. About 20 minutes. From short range, a decapitation first strike is a HELL of a lot easier.
9.12.2006 10:37pm
Steve:
To risk their de facto sovereignty, and potentially millions of lives, over the mostly symbolic issue of de jure sovereignty would be very foolish.

I think whether they wish to take this risk should be up to Taiwan, rather than well-meaning outsiders. Taiwan can decide for themselves if they want to seek UN membership, but if they make that choice, I certainly think the US and other nations which value freedom should support their bid.


[DK: Taiwan is currently seeking UN membership, and has been doing so since the 1990s. The present session of the General Assembly will see another attempt by some of Taiwan's allies to convince the UN to consider the admission of Taiwan.]
9.12.2006 10:48pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Well I tend to think that calling oneself a state would be an important requirement that Taiwain fails. As I understand the situation they have yet to declare themselves an independent nation from China as such it doesn't seem too unreasonable to regard them as an autonomous province rather than a state.

In other words it is not merely self-determination or lack of central control that makes one a state but also the explicit choice to regard oneself as a state.
9.12.2006 10:52pm
Shane (mail) (www):
First off, Taiwan has never officially declared independence, nor to my knowledge, has the United States or other major powers ever formally recognized Taiwan as an independent nation-state. We deal with them as such (virtually), though I am not sure we have an ambassador there. But they do not have all the trappings of a state.

Well, to be fair, although we don't have formal diplomatic relations with the ROC, we do have equivalent offices to consulates, embassies, and those employees. While not technically part of the State Department, State Department employees go to work in Taiwan by resigning their positions in the State Department and taking identical jobs for a non-government American corporation with close ties to everyone in the State Department, usually for equal pay. When they are finished in Taiwan, they move back and are "rehired" by the State Department. I'm pretty sure military advisors do the same thing. Also, Taiwan's "embassies" and "consulates" all operate under TECRO (Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office). You can get visas from TECRO offices around the country, since PRC visas aren't recognized by customs/immigration officials in Taiwan.

So yes, I think they definitely do have all the "trappings of a state," albeit under slightly different names with identical functions.
9.12.2006 11:31pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
We have always been at war with Ocenia.
9.12.2006 11:31pm
Shangui (mail):
Well I tend to think that calling oneself a state would be an important requirement that Taiwain fails. As I understand the situation they have yet to declare themselves an independent nation from China as such it doesn't seem too unreasonable to regard them as an autonomous province rather than a state.

Read Jacob Levy's comment above. If they declare themselves an independent nation the PRC is now (as of last year) bound by its own moronic laws to invade. And the US has very clearly told Taiwan not to do so. Let's not forget that Mr. Democracy G.W. Bush stood next to Hu Juntao, an unelected dictator, and chided Chen Shuibian, a freely elected president of a democracy, for having a referendum. With friends like that it's no wonder the Taiwanese are cautious.

Beyond the UN issue (as most on this site don't take kindly to anything involving the US), is things like WHO membership. During the SARS epidemic, the PRC was hiding sick people and lying to the world while Taiwan was dealing with the problem openly, yet they could not have any involvment with the WHO. The rest of the world should frickin' grow a pair and tell the PRC that it will support Taiwan as an indepedent nation if that is what Taiwan decides it wants through its well-established democratic process.
9.13.2006 12:25am
Robert Racansky:
Taiwan is self-governing. Indeed, Taiwan exercises far more complete self-government than has been exercised by some UN member states — such as Lebanon during its period of colonization by Syria, or the Warsaw Pact nations during the period of Soviet hegemony.

Not just Warsaw Pact nations, but two Soviet republics were also members of the U.N., in addition to the U.S.S.R. itself.

From the List of Member States at http://www.un.org/Overview/unmember.html


Belarus [ former Byelorussia] -- (24 Oct. 1945)
Ukraine-- (24 Oct. 1945)


As others have pointed out,"Their UN membership made little sense prior to 1991 from the legal point of view. Since the USSR itself (incorporating as it did also the Ukraine and Byelorussia) was considered a subject of international law and was a member of the United Nations, there was no legal justification for the UN membership of any of its constituent republics, just as none of the states of the United States ever sought or acquired UN membership. If, on the other hand, the Ukraine and Byelorussia were considered independent nations for the purpose of UN membership, then all the other constituent republics of the USSR - but not the Soviet Union itself - should have been considered as subjects of international law and as such should have been admitted to the UN. However, political rather than legal considerations carried the day: US President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill, in an effort to allay the suspicions of Soviet Premier Stalin that the future international organization would be totally dominated by the western powers, consented at the Yalta summit conference of February 1945 to the UN membership of the Ukraine and Byelorussia, thus assuring the Soviet Union of three votes in the UN General Assembly."
9.13.2006 12:38am
Syd Henderson (mail):
Unless and until Taiwan declares itself to be a separate nation from China, I'd say this discussion is moot.
9.13.2006 1:06am
RainerK:
The Treaty of Shimonoseki was imposed on China as a result of a lost war, the First Sino-Japanese War. It had little support on the island and there was a failed attempt to create an independent Republic of Formosa.
While probably legitimate as a matter of formal law, using the treaty to deny claims of sovereignty unsurprisingly finds little resonance in China.
9.13.2006 9:09am
Shangui (mail):
Unless and until Taiwan declares itself to be a separate nation from China, I'd say this discussion is moot.

Try reading the lengthy comment thread dealing with this issue to make your 2 cents actually worth that.
9.13.2006 10:48am
Westie (mail):
Shangui,
You identify good reasons why Taiwan might want to adhere to the One-China policy but you do not explain why those reasons should vitiate the legal effect of that policy. Simply put, the fact that Taiwan has claimed for fifty years to be part of the larger Chinese polity---rather than an independent state---is a powerful argument that Taiwan is not an independent state. Now this does not mean that Taiwan would not qualify as a state if it claimed to be one. But Taiwan does not make such a claim.

On a side not, could someone clarify the cite to the Montevido Convention. This is not a multilateral convention but one executed only by the states of the western hemisphere. Has it been recognized as embodying a norm of customary international law?
9.13.2006 1:33pm
Paul Allen:
" The guy did aim nuclear missiles at us from short range.


Is this sarcasm? I assume you don't actually think there is a meaningful difference between aiming nuclear missiles at us from short range and aiming them at us from long range, as the Chinese do."
Um. There is a big difference. Missles lunched from Cuba could obliterate the Capital with little to no warning virtually ensuring that a first-strike war would be a victory by decapitation (no one able to order the counter-strike). Such a strike could coincide with further away launches of ICBMs intended to knock-out our ground-based ICBMs while in their silo. But then since the president is dead, no one can claim control of the system fast enough to launch the ground based ICBMs anyways.

This is part of the reason we have a ballistic missile submarine fleet but even then command-and-control provisions make it unlikely a launch could take place for at least day--more than long enough for the peace people in the international community to demand that we just take it with a stiff upper lip and not obliterate the world in 'revenge'
9.13.2006 6:01pm
dweeb:
Accepting Taiwan as a "state" would be to give legitimacy to any separatist group that decided it wanted out of an existing nation. You would then have to grant legitimacy to Chechnya, the Tamils, the Kurds in Iraq, etc. How would we have felt if the world had decided to recognize the Confederacy during our own Civil War?

Probably the same way George III felt when the French recognized us and gave us military aid in the American Revolution. I believe France also recognized and traded with the Confederacy, and any libertarian worth his salt would defend the secessions that formed the Confederacy.
9.13.2006 6:14pm
jvarisco (www):
"Um. There is a big difference. Missles lunched from Cuba could obliterate the Capital with little to no warning virtually ensuring that a first-strike war would be a victory by decapitation (no one able to order the counter-strike). Such a strike could coincide with further away launches of ICBMs intended to knock-out our ground-based ICBMs while in their silo. But then since the president is dead, no one can claim control of the system fast enough to launch the ground based ICBMs anyways. "

Do you understand what Strategic Air Command is? Even were the capitol entirely obliterated, we would have been perfectly capable of responding with enough force to obliterate anyone who hit us. No one has ever had a first strike capability against us. Until such time as we have a working missile defense, it really does not matter where the missiles are.
9.13.2006 9:43pm
Arnold Dorsey, Jr.:
A lot of people seem to be split on whether the UN is worth Taiwan going after, but I think this misses the point. This is but one part of Taiwan's effort to rejoin the international community. A few examples of what Taiwan has to go through as a pariah state:

It has to compete under the name "Chinese Taipei", is not allowed to play its own national anthem at Olympic-sanctioned events, nor fly its flag.

During the SARS outbreak, Taiwan was denied access to World Health Organization aid for weeks as the disease spread around Taipei. Finally, the WHO sent a mere two observers there. In the meantime, China was busy claiming that since Taiwan was under its jusrisdiction, all was being taken care of.

The international community has much to gain from interacting with Taiwan. Despite its small geographic size, Taiwan is a major player in international aid, with the private Tsu-chi Foundation and dozens of other NGOs ready and willing to lend their expertise to the established humanitarian networks sponsored by international organizations like the UN and WHO. The Taiwanese government sent over millions worth of supplies and aid to South Asia following the tsunami disaster there on its own; just imagine how much more it could do while working with the UN?

This year Taiwan's diplomatic allies submitted a proposal to the UN along with the usual one about the representation issue that would see the UN take a more proactive stance in keeping peace in the Strait. Although its a longshot, the proposal will at least add another dimension to Taiwan's argument that "a threat to one is a threat to all", and that it is in the international community's best interest to act before this truly becomes a crisis.
9.15.2006 12:47pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
The cession of Taiwan to Japan in 1898 was reversed by WW II; Taiwan was then occupied by China and was universally recognized as sovereign Chinese territory. That has been the position of both the Republic of China and People's Republic of China ever since.

I do not believe Imperial Chinese policy toward Taiwan is really useful in this discussion. Until 1860, the Chinese Empire regarded itself as the legitimate ruler of everything. "Foreign relations" consisted of "accepting tribute from barbarians". I would be interested in seeing when and how Imperial China officially disclaimed authority over eastern Taiwan.
9.15.2006 8:59pm