Taiwan Communiqué No. 81, June 1998

The U.S.-Taiwan-China triangle: two Japanese views

In two recently published articles, two prominent Japanese observers expressed their views on U.S.-Taiwan-China relations. In the May 25th 1998 issue of the Yomiuri Shimbun, Mr. Hisahiko Okazaki, former Japanese ambassador to Thailand gave a critical analysis of U.S. policy.

In the May 1998 issue of the Japanese-language monthly Taiwan Chinglien, Mr. Takayuki Munakata first presented a historical perspective of the triangular relationship, and then focused on the proposals by Mr. Joseph Nye, rejecting them as a formula for disaster. Below is a short summary of the main points from both articles.

Can Taiwan's freedom be preserved ?

In this article, Mr. Hisahiko Okazaki, former ambassador of Japan to Thailand, gives an insightful analysis of China's growing military strength, the threat to Taiwan, and to stability and peace in East Asia in general.

He states that the Chinese appear to be driven by a dangerous new nationalism, which attempts to restoration of the boundaries of China to that of the Ch'ing dynasty. He emphasizes that Taiwan has never been ruled by Beijing, and that the great majority of the people on the island do not desire unification with Communists China.

He states that while Chinese efforts to have the Taiwan issue recognized as a "domestic" Chinese matter have failed, in general other countries try to downplay the issue, hoping it will solve itself over time.

Mr. Okazaki describes how China is a threat to peace in Asia, because of a combination of military threats, primarily to Taiwan, and psychological and political warfare.

He states that at the moment China doesn't have the military power to prevent Taiwan from moving towards full, de jure, independence, but that China is now manipulating the United States in its attempt to force Taiwan to refrain from declaring independence.

Mr. Okazaki observes that it would be a moral disaster for the United States to attempt to do this. In his view, the U.S. may attempt to apply pressure, but he concludes that the free and democratic political process, which Taiwan has initiated a few years ago, will without any doubt lead in the direction of independence.

Will the U.S. court the third disaster in its Taiwan policy?

The second article was written by Mr. Takayuki Munakata, a long-time Taiwan observer in Japan. He is a founding member of Amnesty International-Japan, has published several books on Taiwan and one book on the Russian Revolution. He presently serves as editor-in-chief of Taiwan Chinglien ("Taiwan Youth").

Mr. Munakata first presents an overview of the events during the past decade, from Tienanmen to the Taiwan Straits missile crisis in 1996, and then focuses in on the proposals by Mr. Joseph Nye (see "Nay to Mr. Nye", in Taiwan Communiqué no. 80, pp. 5-9). Mr. Munakata terms Mr. Nye's proposals a ruinous capitulation to Beijing.

Mr. Munakata then looks back over the past fifty years, and argues that in that period, the United States made two critical errors in its policy towards Taiwan, with disastrous consequences for the island:

  1. at the end of World War II, the United States allowed Chiang Kai-shek to occupy Taiwan, which started a repressive 40 year-period of martial law. This occurred in spite of the fact that the U.S. knew that Chiang was extremely corrupt and repressive. As evidence, Mr. Munakata quotes the "China White Papers" published by the State Department in 1949.
  2. the second critical error was made in 1971, when the United States could have pushed the Chiang Kai-shek regime to give up its United Nations Security Council seat to the PRC (thereby avoiding the recurrent debate about the "issue of Chinese representation") while maintaining regular membership in the General Assembly. However, in an error of judgment, the U.S. pushed for the issue to be declared an "important question" — and lost.

Mr. Munakata then argues that the only way to resolve the issue is to accept Taiwan into the international community "...as a sovereign state equal to other nations in the world." He states that among the 193 nations in the world, Taiwan ranks 43rd in terms of population, 17th in terms of Gross National Product (GNP), and 25th in Per capita GNP.

Mr. Munakata analyzes the international legal perspective, and states that following the occupation of Taiwan by Chiang Kai-shek in 1945, the legal status only changed in 1951-52 when Japan formally ceded sovereignty over Taiwan, but when it was decided that the future of the island would be decided ".. in accord with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter."

He then refers to the International Covenants on Human Rights, economic, social and political rights adopted by the United Nations in 1966, which provide that:

"All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development."

Mr. Munakata concludes that the United States should urge China and Taiwan to mutually recognize eachother's sovereignty and territory, and strive for peaceful coexistence.

Elections for DPP chairmanship

On 27 May 1998, elections were held within the DPP-party for the position of chairman. It was the first time the DPP chairman was to be directly elected by all party members. Until now, the election took place through a system of party caucuses.

The two major candidates were Mr. Lin Yi-hsiung, a leading figure in Taiwan's opposition since the late 1970s, and Mr. Chang Chün-hung, an at-large member of the Legislative Yuan and a former Secretary-General of the DPP. According to the DPP headquarters, an estimated 96,000 DPP members were eligible to vote, while the turnout rate was approximately 60 percent.

However, just as vote-counting was about to start in the polling-stations around the island, a group of stick-wielding men entered the polling station in the southern city of Kaohsiung, and broke open and turned over ballot boxes. The fight apparently resulted from a conflict between two local candidates for the chairmanship of the local section of the DPP, for which voting was also taking place.

The DPP Central office immediately suspended vote-counting, and subsequently decided that there should be a re-election in Kaohsiung on 7 June 1998, and that all votes would be counted on that day.

Lin Yi-hsiung likely winner

Mr. Lin Yi-hsiung As this issue of Taiwan Communiqué was going to press, no result was known yet, but it was widely expected that Mr. Lin Yi-hsiung would be the likely winner.

Mr. Lin is known for his highly principled position and high standards, and will provide the DPP with a good headstart for the upcoming elections for the Legislative Yuan at the end of 1998.

Mr. Lin is also the best person to lead the DPP into the 21st century, and under his leadership the DPP will have the best chance to become Taiwan's ruling party in the year 2000, when presidential elections will be held.

Mr. Lin is one of Taiwan's most prominent opposition figures. He became well-known in the late 1970s, when as a young lawyer he became member of the Taiwan Provincial Assembly, and was one of the first people to speak out against the Kuomintang's corruption and repression under its Martial Law, which wasn't lifted until 1987.

His life took a tragic turn in the aftermath of the Kaohsiung Incident of 1979, when he was arrested, and on 28 February 1980 - while he was in prison - his mother and twin-daughters were murdered in their home in downtown Taipei, while the house was under surveillance by the secret police. A third daughter was injured severely from knife stabbings, but survived. The Kuomintang authorities never solved the murder although there were strong indications of involvement by the secret police.

After "Kaohsiung", Mr. Lin was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment, but was released after four-and-a-half years due to strong international pressure. After his release he has dedicated himself to improvement of Taiwan's social structure and enhancement of the Taiwanese cultural identity, instead of the Chinese identity, which has been emphasized by the mainlander-dominated Kuomintang authorities.

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