Thursday, September 6, 2007

UN Bid and Its Impacts on Taiwan-US Relations—Is There a Lack of Understanding of Taiwan's Democracy?

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte has expressed that the U.S. is opposed to a Taiwan referendum on UN membership, declaring such move as a step towards Taiwan independence. Negroponte noted that President Chen had promised to the U.S. that he would not alter Taiwan’s status quo, including changing Taiwan’s official name. However, President Chen and James Huang, Minister of Foreign Affairs, responded that the referendum on UN membership was not changing the status quo, and such example showed American lack of understanding of Taiwan’s democracy.

The U.S. government in its policy toward Taiwan continues to follow past practices, which was catered for the two Chiang leaders and the KMT authoritarian regime. In other words, as long as the U.S. obtained a promise from the head of state in Taiwan, there was no need to give consideration to public opinion. However, after democratization in Taiwan, information has become more open and civic society has developed with full vitality. Hence, the sentiments of the Taiwanese people toward Taiwan’s international unfavorable situation grew naturally more discontent, and the public proceeded to demand further government action.

It is regrettable that communications between the U.S. and Taiwan has suffered the influence of the U.S. unilateral term of “One China.” This can be seen in the example of the U.S. strictly limiting and checking on transits and visits by Taiwanese elected leaders. If both sides have this type of relationship, how can a good relationship and a smooth channel of communications exist between both sides? Under a circumstance where an official channel of communications between both sides is deficient, naturally relations are not bound to be good. If the U.S. only cares to raise opposition to Taiwan’s actions and refuses to reflect on the reasons why U.S.-Taiwan relations have deteriorated, it is more likely that relations between both sides will worsen.

Moreover, the U.S. does not have official relations with North Korea, but it has held secret and open talks between both sides in order to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem. On the contrary, in the past few years, the U.S. has been consistently opposing to Taiwan’s plans for holding referenda. Former Deputy Secretary of State Randy Shriver said that the U.S. was not opposed to Taiwan holding referenda in “form,” but they opposed the “contents” of the UN referendum. Nevertheless, 70% of the Taiwanese people support the topic of joining the UN. With such numbers, does the U.S. still believe that holding the referendum is not necessary?

According the reports by the Central News Agency, Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials are afraid that after the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State’s public statement, U.S. President Bush will most likely make an open standpoint against the Taiwan referendum on UN membership during the APEC summit on September 8.

If under tremendous pressure from the China, the U.S. opts to protect its self-interests and is unable to persist in the principles of democracy and freedom, Taiwan will be incapable of preventing the U.S. from damaging Taiwan’s international position. History between U.S.-Taiwan relations has shown these facts: President Nixon signed the Shanghai Communiqué in Shanghai on February 1972; President Carter established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China on January 1, 1979, undoubtedly sending a shock wave to the KMT government at that time.

If in fact, Taiwan and the U.S. are mutually best friends and the request for UN membership is in reality a critical problem, there is no reason why both sides should not hold high-level bilateral, and even multilateral, meetings in order to resolve this problem.

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