Taiwan Communiqué No. 105 June 2003

The Iraq war

A retrospective

When our previous issue of Taiwan Communiqué went to press in early March 2003, the Iraq was had not even started yet. It eventually erupted around March 20th and was finished by April 10th. Within some three weeks, the United States and Britain showed the world their military might and removed Saddam Hussein from power.

From the Taiwanese perspective, we voiced two concerns: that China might take advantage of the confusion and move against Taiwan, or that the US _ in an attempt to get Chinese support in the UN for its position in Iraq _ might trade away part of the existing security guarantees for Taiwan. Neither concern was warranted: China was too busy with its power transition and with SARS, and the Bush Administration specifically stated in mid-March that it would not sacrifice an inch of its support for Taiwan in exchange for any support from China for the military campaign against Iraq.

As it happened, China strongly opposed the US-British intervention in Iraq, arguing that it could only take place if approved by the UN Security Council. This is rather ironic, because China itself is threatening Taiwan, and is not waiting for any approval by the UN. In fact it consistently refuses to submit its long-running political feud with Taiwan to any international body.

The Iraq war also brought to light that the two pro-unification parties in Taiwan, the Kuomintang and the Peoples First Party, slavishly toed the Beijing line and suddenly became very "anti-war" and anti-US. Indeed, they started to accuse Chen Shui-bian's DPP administration of being a puppet of the United States. Like many other nations in Europe and Asia, Taiwan had expressed its political support for the US-British campaign to root out one of the prime sources of international terrorism.

Below are two articles related to the Iraq war.

Recognizing China for what it isn't

By Prof. Parris Chang, member of the Legislative Yuan.This article first appeared in the Taipei Times on 10 April 2003. Reprinted with permission.

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Pan-blue camp in Taiwan toeing the China line.

The strong suspicion among pan-blue politicians of the government's support for the US' military action to liberate Iraq is an echo of Beijing's concerns.

The Chinese government's stance has consistently been to oppose the US. It didn't support a UN Security Council resolution by the US, the UK and Spain proposing military action against Iraq, and even hinted at using its veto. On March 20, after hostilities began, Beijing demanded that the US cease its military action at once.

There are two main reasons why Beijing is opposed to US military action. First, it does not want to see the US become exceedingly powerful, a single strong power in control of the whole Middle East. Second, it worries that the US will use its neo-interventionist policies as an excuse to intervene in any future Chinese military action against Taiwan.

Particularly noteworthy, however, is that, even though China opposes the US, it does so gently, without working against the US as fiercely as do France or Russia. China is clearly straddling the fence in the hope that it will be able to maintain a friendly relationship with the US. It is also restricting anti-war demonstrations by university students and foreigners. As a result, US President George W. Bush has called former president Jiang Zemin — now chairman of the Central Military Commission — and Chinese President Hu Jintao to express his gratitude.

Some people in Taiwan worry about the US taking military action against Iraq without UN authorization, since China might follow its example and invade Taiwan. They equate China with the US and discuss Taiwan and Iraq in the same breath, which is a very strange kind of logic. Did Mao Zedong and Jiang obtain UN agreement when Mao bombarded Kinmen in 1958 and when Jiang ordered missiles to be fired at Taiwan in 1996?

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has used all his armed might to invade another country and he has used biological and chemical weapons against his own people. What could be the motives of Taiwan's intellectuals and media when they discuss this nation in the same breath as the extremely evil Saddam? In fact, if China opposes US use of military force to solve this conflict, how could it justify its unwillingness to give up the option to use military force against Taiwan?

China also differs from the US in its approach to the North Korean nuclear issue. Washington has pressed China to use its influence with Pyongyang in order to stop it from manufacturing nuclear weapons. Until now, however, it seems China does not want, or is unable, to do so, something which has created deep disappointment and resentment in Washington. Beijing insists on bilateral talks and negotiations between the US and North Korea, and has even used its veto power in the UN Security Council to block debate regarding Pyongyang's violations of international treaties and its expulsion of the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspectors, thereby rendering the world body totally ineffective.

Beijing is pressing the US to handle the Iraq issue through the Security Council. So why doesn't it want to go through the UN when it comes to North Korea? Isn't it contradictory to merely want bilateral negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang?

Some people in Taiwan constantly worry that Washington will lean towards China because the US is in great need of Chinese assistance when it comes to the Iraqi and North Korean issues, and that this would be disadvantageous to this nation. Such worries are unnecessary, since there is currently no way in which Beijing could assist the US in these issues to the extent that the US, apart from being grateful, would sacrifice Taiwan to reward China for its help.

In an interview with Taiwanese media on March 25, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Randy Shriver said that regardless of whether it was a matter of public support, substantive contributions or participation in future reconstruction work in Iraq, he was grateful for Taiwan's straightforwardness and friendship with the US.

He also said, "Even if China tries to pressure the US, we will not give in. The US will continue to respect the promises made to Taiwan in the Taiwan Relations Act. This isn't something that China can change."

When Shriver gave this interview, the US government had already sent the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier battle group to the East Asian seas. This is a very important signal to Pyongyang and Beijing that the US is not neglecting security in the East Asia.

Beijing's biggest headache is whether the US will adopt strict measures towards North Korea (including use of military force) after the war in Iraq has ended if Pyongyang does not heed Beijing's exhortations and instead continues to produce nuclear weapons and conduct missile tests, thus further heightening international tension.

What would Beijing do should the US decide to take military action against North Korea? Sit by and watch as its formerly close ally is subjected to military sanctions, thus losing a buffer country? Or will it once again oppose the US, assist North Korea and engage the Americans in war, as it did in the 1950s?

Having a willful rogue nation as neighbor and friend is a burden that China could do without.

Time to think of alternatives to the UN

By Paul Lin, a political commentator based in New York. This article first appeared in the Taipei Times on 27 March 2003. Reprinted with permission.

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PRC government preventing Chinese people from seeing how dictators can be toppled.

War is never a good thing because it causes extreme privation and damages material and spiritual civilization. Yet there are times when war is unavoidable. The Iraq problem didn't develop overnight but has dragged on since 1991 because Iraq has frequently violated UN resolutions and has secretly developed weapons of mass destruction.

Every time a problem arises, the UN depends on the US to act as a "global policeman" before Iraq will begin to toe the line. But Iraq always reverts to its former behavior. This time they were cooperating with UN weapons inspectors only because they had been squeezed like a tube of toothpaste by intense US military pressure.

Without completely disarming the country and changing President Saddam Hussein's regime, there will be no solution to the problem. The UN has been powerless to solve the problem for over a decade. Now, is it not turning a blind eye on Saddam's evil-doing by hindering US actions? Moreover, the US declared war on terrorism after Sept. 11. Naturally, rogue states that fail to turn over a new leaf will become targets. Iraq is just one of these states.

The powerlessness of the UN is hardly limited to its performance on the Iraq problem. Does the UN really love peace so much? When China fired missiles into the Taiwan Strait, threatening to first destroy Taiwan and then rebuild it, did the UN step up and make any statements? Why didn't they urge Beijing to patiently use political means to solve the problem? What has the UN done to safeguard the rights of Taiwan's 23 million people or ensure that they are free of the terror stemming from China's military threat?

The UN has drafted two international human rights treaties, but what measures has it ever taken against those signatories that subsequently violated the treaties? China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and has long trampled on human rights. What can the UN do? In recent years, China has intensified its efforts to suppress religion, especially by brutally handling Falung Gong practitioners, yet after a visit to Beijing, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he understood Beijing's actions. Is the UN not thus aiding a tyrant?

Even more strangely, the US, a country founded on principles of human rights, was once expelled from the UN Commission on Human Rights, while Libya, a country with an abysmal human rights record and numerous ties to terrorists, is the current chairman of the commission.

Confronted with Slobodan Milosevic's genocidal atrocities in Kosovo, the UN was also unable to act. In the end, it was necessary to depend on NATO, and NATO depended on the US, to apply military force to stop Milosevic and send him to the war crimes tribunal at The Hague.

The UN's indifference toward and even suppression of Taiwan is a well-known fact. Annan must bear some of the responsibility for this. Refusing to allow Taiwanese media organizations to report from within the UN completely disregards the principle of press freedom. If there is any representative of the Taiwanese media at all, it is only the World Journal, which is registered in the US. These restrictions weren't just imposed after the DPP came to power. It was like this early on in the KMT era and it stems from China's animosity toward Taiwan.

Since the UN is so impotent, its functions grow less relevant by the day. It is going the way of the League of Nations. Countries that uphold the universal values of freedom and human rights should step forward to form a new international organization to replace the UN and create a new world order. The US should lead this movement. Of course, at the beginning, the UN need not be discarded completely. It can be replaced gradually.

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