"ROC" membership not on UN agenda

New York, 11 September 1998

On Friday, 11 September 1998, the General Assembly's steering committee decided without a vote not to inscribe the issue of membership of the "ROC on Taiwan" -- as the Kuomintang authorities still call themselves -- on the agenda of the U.N. General Assembly session that opened this week. The decision followed a lengthy debate in which opponents of Taiwan outnumbered its supporters by more than two to one.

At the end of the debate, Assembly President Didier Opertti, who is Uruguay's foreign minister, said there was ``no consensus here regarding the inclusion of this item'' and ruled without objection not to recommend its inscription on the agenda. The debate on the Taiwan issue was by far the longest and most contentious as the committee organised the Assembly's workload of some 160 items.

The sponsors of the move to readmit Taiwan wanted the Assembly to take up a resolution revoking the section of the 1971 decision excluding the Kuomintang authorities as the representatives of China, thereby restoring Taiwan's membership in all U.N. bodies. Beijing's membership would not have been affected.

The title of the agenda item they tried to get inscribed was: ``Need to review General Assembly resolution 2758 (XXVI) of October 25, 1971 owing to the fundamental change in the international situation and to the coexistence of two governments across the Taiwan Strait.''

The sponsors argued that Taiwan meets all the requirements for membership in the world body and that it is unjust for its population of nearly 22 million to be denied representation in international organisations. Taiwan's backers cited its robust economy, with a gross national product of over $285 billion making it the world's 20th largest economy, and its ability to help less developed countries.

This latest move was backed by 17 speakers during the committee debate, led by Senegal's ambassador Ibra Ka. However, some forty nations spoke against inclusion of the item, including some 25 members of the 28-member steering committee. It was the sixth year in which the Kuomintang authorities have attempted a similar "return to the UN" attempt.

The sponsors of the move to seat Taiwan were: Burkina Faso, Chad, Dominica, El Salvador, Gambia, Grenada, Liberia, Malawi, Nicaragua, Panama, Sao Tome and Principe, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, Solomon Islands and Swaziland.

The request was thus done to gain a seat for the so-called "Republic of China on Taiwan", as the KMT authorities still refer to themselves. This is a dead-end street. The Kuomintang authorities lost their "Republic of China" seat in the United Nations in 1971 when the organization accepted the Communist government in Beijing as the sole representative of China.

Resolution 2758 dealt with the question who was representing China in the United Nations. It did not deal with the question of Taiwan's representation, which is a separate issue, to be dealt with as a follow up on the decisions of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951-52 .

Some international observers argue that the issue should not be raised, saying that Taiwan's entry into the UN is impossible because China has a permanent seat in the Security Council and will block any attempt to let Taiwan join the UN.

We believe that such a position is indefensible and totally wrong: the world should not let itself be dictated by a repressive and dictatorial China. It should stand up for the principles on which the UN was founded: freedom, democracy, equal rights and self-determination of peoples.

In particular Western nations, which seem so eager to trade with China, have the moral obligation to make it clear to China that its acceptance as a full partner in the international community hinges on its recognition of Taiwan as a friendly neighbor. Right now, a world body which was set up on the basis of the principle of universality is still excluding a free, democratic and independent nation of 21 million people. This needs to change.

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