UN SG Ban Ki-moon's policy is insulting and dangerous
By James Huang
A little over a month ago Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-bian, submitted a fresh application for the country's admission to the United Nations. Within days, the UN secretariat answered the request with an outright rejection.
This is now the 15th year in a row that Taiwan has been denied participation in this august global body, an organisation that has pledged to be "open to all ... peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained" in the UN charter.
For many peoples and nations around the world, Taiwan has been an active and willing diplomatic and trading partner. It is the world's 18th-largest economy and the European Union's 10th-largest trading partner, and is well known as a vibrant and liberal democracy. In a rational world it would no doubt be a valuable and indispensable member of this international society. Yet the reality is that it has long been blocked from the UN.
This year Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, took it upon himself to determine that Taiwan's letter of application "could not be received", despite the fact that it was not his decision to make. The United Nations charter and rules grant only the security council and the general assembly the authority to decide on the admission of new members. By returning Taiwan's application letter as he did, the secretary general plainly overstepped the boundaries of his power.
The secretary general defended his decision by citing UN general assembly resolution 2758; he said that this resolution asserts that Taiwan is a part of the People's Republic of China. However, this interpretation is not only improper, but false and dangerous.
It is improper because resolution 2758 does not mention anything about Taiwan - the word "Taiwan" simply does not appear - let alone Taiwan's representation in the UN or the statement that "Taiwan is a part of China". The fact is that Ban Ki-moon is not empowered to exercise this kind of discretion to review or screen UN membership applications based on his own interpretation.
His interpretation is false because it ignores and contradicts the widely recognised fact that Taiwan is a free and independent country that has never been under the rule of the People's Republic of China.
And his interpretation is dangerous because it provides China with a convenient rationale to arbitrarily alter the status quo of Taiwan without the consent of the Taiwanese people.
It is a shared aspiration of the vast majority of the 23 million people of Taiwan to join the United Nations. A recent poll showed that 77% of the Taiwanese people support Taiwan's bid to join the body. They are eager to break away from the international isolation that has been imposed on them for decades.
The UN secretary general's "decision" on Taiwan's application is tantamount to placing an international political apartheid on this beautiful island nation. It is an insult to a people who have been committed to advancing the course of democracy and striving for a dignified way of living. There is absolutely no defensible justification for continuing to deny the Taiwanese people the right to participate in and make a valuable contribution to the global community.
As such, the United Nations should grant due respect to the will of the Taiwanese people by processing Taiwan's application in accordance with relevant rules and process. We urge the UN to pull down the wall of political apartheid against Taiwan.
James Huang is Taiwan's minister of foreign affairs www.gio.gov.tw