The new DPP-government in Taiwan is making a new push to join the United Nations, arguing that the world body would be the appropriate forum for Taiwan and China to settle their differences.
On 3 August 2000, fourteen of Taiwan's diplomatic allies in Africa, and Central and South America wrote to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, proposing that the United Nations consider Taiwan's request to join the organization at the upcoming UN General Assembly in September 2000.
"We called on the United Nations to regard the recent goodwill we have demonstrated to China and to provide a forum for reconciliation between the sides," Vice Foreign Minister Wu Tzu-dan told reporters in Taipei. "Since the United Nations is dedicated to resolving international disputes, it should admit the island and let China face the reality of Taiwan's existence", Wu added.
Each year since 1993, Taipei has mounted the campaign for representation in the United Nations. In doing so, the former Kuomintang government responded to pressure from the DPP, but submitted the application under the anachronistic "Republic of China" name.
The newly-elected DPP government of President Chen Shui-bian is giving less weight to the name issue, but is emphasizing the rights of the 23 million people of Taiwan to be represented in the world body, as well as the contribution Taiwan can make as a full and equal member of the international community.
In an interview with Business Week, published in a cover article in the beginning of August 2000, President Chen clearly referred to Taiwan as "a sovereign and independent country" and said that the people of Taiwan expect the government to bring the country into the United Nations.
On Thursday, 28 July 2000, a resolution was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives urging Taiwan's membership in the UN and other international organizations. The resolution, H. Con. Resolution 390, was introduced by Congressman Bob Schaffer (R-CO), who led a bi-partisan group of 42 House Members in calling on the Clinton Administration to "fulfill the commitment it made in the 1994 Taiwan Policy Review to more actively support Taiwan's membership in appropriate international organizations."
Introduction of the resolution was initiated by the Washington-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs, which kicked off the "Taiwan into the United Nations Campaign" by the Taiwanese-American community in the United States.
On 5 September 2000, Reps. Schaffer, Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) issued statements in support of UN membership for Taiwan. The statements were read at the "UN, say Yes to Taiwan!" rally in New York on the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in front of the UN building.
Rep. Schaffer stated "Taiwan has made enormous strides toward becoming a full democracy. Undeterred by China's threats, the Taiwanese voters elected pro-independence party candidates, ending more than half a century of Nationalist rule. The election . returns the government back to the people." And "[ ] last month I was pleased to introduce HCR-390 to recognize the legitimacy of Taiwan's presence in the international community. Taiwan, as a democratic nation should be afforded the privilege of membership in the United Nations."
Rep. Chabot stated: "As an original co-sponsor of HCR390, I have urged President Clinton to fulfill America's commitment to actively support Taiwan's membership in international organizations, including the United Nations." And "I am hopeful that before Congress adjourns this year, it will take up this important resolution."
Rep. Brown stated: "The people of Taiwan have proved freedom and democracy are not just American ideals, they are universal principles that apply to every individual, to every community, and to every nation." And "The U.S. State Department's 1994 Taiwan Policy Review clearly stated it would more actively support Taiwan's membership in international organizations, when the U.S. government determines "it is clearly appropriate." But the Clinton Administration is positioned to influence international policy, it refuses to take the lead and support Taiwanese participation."
On 5 September 2000, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrote an editorial, titled "now let's set a new course for the world, no less", which was published in major American and international newspapers. In the editorial Mr. Kofi Annan wrote: "The United Nations is the universal forum, where all the world's peoples are represented."
Regrettably, Mr. Kofi Annan has it wrong: 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 23 million people.
The establishment of the United Nations in 1945 signaled the start of a new era and prompted a long series of declarations of independence in Asia and Africa. Because of a fluke accident of history the occupation of Taiwan by Chiang Kai-shek's armies fleeing from China the Taiwanese people were not able to join the international family of nations as an independent nation right away.
Over the past four decades, the Taiwanese have, through their hard work and ingenuity, achieved one of the most prosperous economies of East Asia, and also brought about a full-fledged democracy.
Some international observers argue that we should not raise the Taiwan issue, 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 intimidated 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.
It needs to be emphasized time and again that Taiwan fulfills all basic requirements of a nation-state: it has a defined territory, a population of 23 million (greater than that of three quarters of the UN member nations), and a government which exercises effective control over the territory and the population.
Why is it important that this de-facto independent country becomes a full and equal member of the UN ? First, because of the original principles of the UN itself: the world body was founded on the principles of universality and self-determination. If the UN is to survive as an institution that safeguards world peace, it is essential that it adheres to these principles, and applies them to the case of Taiwan.
A second reason for supporting Taiwan's membership in the UN is that this further emphasizes that Taiwan's future is an international issue, to be dealt with by the international community, and not a "domestic issue" for the "Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Straits" to decide on. The responsibility of the international community stems from the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952, which decided that Japan ceded its sovereignty over Taiwan, and that the future status of Taiwan was to be decided in due time "in accord with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations." Certainly in those days, this term could have only one meaning: "independence."
A third reason for supporting Taiwan's entry into the UN is that over the past decade Taiwan has due to the hard work of the democratic opposition and the overseas Taiwanese community achieved a democratic political system. This argument is especially relevant for the United States and Europe. It would be indefensible for the West to deny UN membership to a free and democratic nation, while condoning the presence of repressive, undemocratic nations such as China, Iraq, Iran, etc. This would be a flagrant violation of basic democratic principles.
Back to: Table of Contents
Copyright © 2000 Taiwan Communiqué