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Friday, January 28, 2005

Taipei Times > US must side with Taiwan

Thu, Jan 27, 2005 Thursday, Jan 27, 2005

By Henry Wang

Advertising With hard work, perseverance and ingenuity, post-World War II Taiwan has emerged as one of Asia's most advanced economies and one of its most free and democratic countries. Indeed, Taiwan is, in the word of US Secretary of State Colin Powell, a "success story," and a true multi-party democracy worthy of emulating by all developing countries.
Every four years, just as the Americans do, the Taiwanese people freely elect the president of their country.
The US and Taiwan have been allies for decades. The freedom-loving Taiwanese treasure this valuable and mutually-beneficial relationship. They, however, were disheartened be the remarks of the State Department's two highest-ranking officials. On Oct. 25 last year, when speaking about the US' "one China" policy, Powell said, "Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation."
He went a step further to express an erroneous view that "reunification" with China is a goal sought by the Taiwanese as well as the Chinese.
The fact is that Taiwan has never been, historically or legally, a part of China since 1895 when the Qing Dynasty ceded Taiwan to Japan. Japan ruled Taiwan as a colony for half a century until its defeat in 1945. By virtue of the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty, Japan renounced control of Taiwan. In the minds and hearts of the great majority of the people of, Taiwan is a democracy with all the characteristics of a sovereign nation.
In addition, survey after survey has unmistakably shown that the majority of the Taiwanese people do not wish Taiwan to become part of China. Although through Powell later backtracked on his words and acknowledged that he meant peaceful "resolution" of differences between Taiwan and China and not "reunification," he has yet to retract his prejudicial remarks about Taiwan's sovereignty.
The Taiwanese people were even more dismayed when Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, in an interview with PBS' Charlie Rose on Dec. 10, stated, "We all agree that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China."
He added that the US is not legally obligated to defend Taiwan in the event of a military attack. Since 1972, the official position of the US, as manifested in the three joint communiques between the US and China, has been that the US "acknowledges" the Chinese claim that Taiwan is part of China.
Nowhere is it mentioned that the US "agrees" with China's position. Armitage's remarks are a significant departure from long-standing US policy. Furthermore, Armitage's interpretation of the Taiwan Relations Act that the US is not legally bound to defend Taiwan contradicts President George W. Bush's 2002 pledge that the US would "do whatever it takes" to defend Taiwan.
At a time when the US is committed to establish democracy in Middle East and other regions, it certainly does not bode well for the administration's credibility when the State Department chooses to adopt the position that the Taiwanese should live under the terms of authoritarian China.
One must realize that the tensions across the Taiwan Strait are nothing more than a result of China's territorial ambitions.
China today not only has nearly 600 missiles targeting Taiwan, it also has been steadily upgrading its nuclear capabilities.
The Chinese military modernization in reality is posing a threat not only to Taiwan but also to other Asian countries. It has become increasingly clear that with its rapidly growing economic prowess and military might, China will soon be in the position to recreate an "Asian co-prosperity sphere" that imperial Japan attempted to build during World War II -- but brought disastrous results to itself and its neighbors.
Recognizing China's ambition to be the dominant power in Asia, Japan has perceived China's rise as a threat to its security. Likewise, India is apprehensive of China's rising influence in the region. The urgent task for the US is to refocus on Asia and not to stand idle when democratic Taiwan is intimidated militarily China.
The timing of the State Department officials' remarks reiterating the Chinese position before their pending departures from is both regrettable and perplexing. Proclaiming that "Taiwan is part of China" not only offers US endorsement of Taiwan's eventual annexation, it also emboldens China to enact its so-called "anti-secession law" to justify such an action.
We sincerely hope that with the departure of Powell and Armitage, their recently expressed views on Taiwan will be forgotten. History will show that when the US steadfastly sides with freedom and democracy, it exerts a greater influence on humanity.
We also hope the US will encourage Beijing to respect the wishes of the Taiwanese, as this offers the only meaningful solution to the cross-strait impasse.
To continue to discourage the Taiwanese from pursuing their own destiny -- a right sanctioned by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- puts the US in the unenviable position of siding with China, a rising military power that the US-based Freedom House has ranked over the last two decades as one of the world's most unfree countries.
Henry Wang,
North American Taiwanese Professors' Association

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