Tuesday, August 7, 2007

US position on Taiwan's UN bid and referendum remains unchanged

The U.S. has been opposed to Taiwan’s referendum on using the name of “Taiwan” to join the UN. So far 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, in an arrogant and lightly neglectful thinking—while China did not press on—the U.S. clearly expressed that they did not support Taiwan to enter the UN. It was indeed inconsistent with the U.S’s previous policy during the cold war period. Although the Taiwan Relations Act states that nothing in the 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, still, the U.S. allowed the expulsion of Taiwan from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to happen in 1980. Moreover, in 1998 when Clinton visited Shanghai, he stressed that the U.S. would not support Taiwan to join the UN or other international organizations, showing a twist of the Taiwan Relations Act.

Currently, the U.S. does not view Taiwan’s international relations as the most pressing issue in terms of causing regional or global security threats. However, in the short run, the U.S. must deal with cross-strait matters due to the possible 2008 referendum on Taiwan’s bid to join the UN under the name of Taiwan. 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. The U.S. believes that a referendum would be dangerously change the status quo and create the following negative impacts once the UN referendum is held: 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) The U.S. will be forced to convince other countries to oppose Taiwan’s UN referendum.

The DPP version of the referendum states: “In 1971, the PRC entered the UN and replaced the ROC, 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?” On the KMT’s side, it proposed its own UN referendum, and in July 2007 the KMT Central Standing Committee has passed a set of regulations concerning the referendum, such as “creating a more pragmatic and flexible strategy to return to the UN and to enter other international organizations.” The KMT’s support for the referendum, ironically, has made the Taiwan-U.S. relations even more complex. The U.S. and China, as a result, 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 more or less curb the U.S. and China’s political interference.

Nevertheless, the U.S. and China’s together opposing Taiwan’s referendum and supposing the referendum as “crossing the red line” have undoubtedly put tremendous pressure on Taiwan. If both the DPP and the KMT can share the same standpoint when facing the international community, other countries’ attitudes toward the Taiwan’s UN referendum might have a positive change.

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