Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Referendum on Taiwan’s UN Bid and Cross-Strait Relations

Currently, the U.S. does not think that Taiwan’s international relations represent the most pressing issue in terms of regional or global security threats. It is quite obvious that the U.S.’s cross-strait policy aims at preventing a crisis from taking place in the Taiwan Strait—especially China’s using force to threaten Taiwan. However, in the short run, the U.S. must deal with cross-strait matters and the 2008 referendum on Taiwan’s bid to join the UN under the name of Taiwan.

Recently, the U.S. government has been against using the name of “Taiwan” to join the WHO and UN. The U.S. believes that the following negative effects might occur once the UN referendum is conducted: 1) Beijing’s attitude will become tougher, 2) Cross-strait relations will deteriorate further, 3) Taiwan’s international position will be even more isolated, and 4) In order to clearly declare their standpoints, the U.S. will try to convince other countries to oppose Taiwan’s UN referendum.

In addition, the U.S. has not expressed any concern for Taiwan’s current bilateral or multi-lateral international relations; much less, they have not given Taiwan any specific, clear, definite or strong support. In 1971, given all the efforts to protect Taiwan from having a seat in the UN, in an arrogant and lightly neglectful thinking—while China did not press on—the U.S. publicly expressed that they did not support Taiwan to enter the UN. It was indeed, in my view, an inconsistent policy that would spin a cocoon round the U.S. itself.

The Taiwan Relations Act states: “Nothing in this Act may be construed as a basis for supporting the exclusion or expulsion of Taiwan from continued membership in any international financial institution or any other international organization.” Nevertheless, the U.S. allowed the expulsion of Taiwan in 1980 from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In Shanghai in 1998, Clinton said the U.S. would not support Taiwan to join the UN or other international organizations, shackling both the U.S. and Taiwan and also implying a U.S. twist in the Taiwan Relations Act.

Taiwan’s changing domestic politics, especially the KMT’s support for the referendum, has made the Taiwan-U.S. relations even more complex. The DPP version of the referendum states: “In 1971, the People’s Republic of China entered the UN and replaced the Republic of China, making Taiwan an international orphan. In order to strongly express the will of the Taiwanese people and to promote Taiwan’s international participation, do you agree that the government should use the name of ‘Taiwan’ to join the UN?” And the KMT Central Standing Committee passed a set of regulations concerning the referendum in July 2007: “To create a more pragmatic and flexible strategy to return to the UN and to enter other international organizations.” Consequently, the U.S. and China have lost an important lever to check Taiwan. Therefore, it can be seen that when both of the DDP and KMT’s standpoints about joining international organizations converge, it could hold up the U.S. and China’s reactions toward Taiwan’s UN referendum. However, the U.S. and China’s together opposing Taiwan’s referendum or publicly supposing the referendum as “crossing the red line” has undoubtedly put tremendous pressure on Taiwan. If both the DPP and the KMT unanimously face the outside world together, the aforesaid situation might change.

At any rate, U.S.-Taiwan relations have once again reached a low point. Regarding President Chen’s request for application to UN membership, the PRC responded through a statement made by the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, which stated: “The Taiwan authorities under Chen Shui-bian, whether applying or promoting a referendum to join the UN, are plots and strategies move towards independence and to change the status quo—that is, the Mainland and Taiwan are part of one China.

All these actions aim to internally establish Taiwan independence and externally create better conditions to seek international recognition.” Beijing also threatened by saying that they have “made resolute preventions and necessary preparations against all Taiwan independence adventures.” Beijing avoided in mentioning the Anti-Secession Law and said that they would continue observing the 2008 referendum to join the UN. Additionally, Beijing’s academia specialists passed on a clear statement, stressing that it was impossible for them not to respond even though the reaction would damage the KMT.

Taiwan’s request for UN membership does have multiple meanings and are absolutely not, like Beijing said, plots for Taiwan independence. The request for application, even though frustrated, represents a right, a duty, a way out, a matter regarding national security, and Taiwan’s dignity. These considerations can never be understood by arrogant powers such as the U.S. and China.

No comments: