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The U.S. Should Support Taiwan’s Bid For United Nations Membership, Even If It Does Annoy China

Opinion Editorial
November 4, 2007

By Mike Krause

In September, a United Nations General Assembly committee voted to deny Taiwan’s most recent request to become a UN member state, citing Communist China’s ongoing and absurd claim of sovereignty over Taiwan—even though it is plainly obvious that Taiwan functions as an independent state—and that only Beijing may represent Taiwan’s 23 million citizens in international organizations.

And while it is understandable that the other tyrannies, dictatorships and thug-states that inhabit the UN would feel a kinship to China and stand by its false claim over Taiwan, it is astonishing that the United States continues to aid in the marginalization of its friend and ally Taiwan in order to appease the regime in Beijing. In June, a U.S. State Department spokesman told reporters that while the U.S. supports Taiwan’s democratic development, “Consistent with our one China policy, we do not support Taiwan’s membership in international organizations that require statehood, including the United Nations.”

The U.S. supports Taiwan’s democratic development? Like Rip Van Winkle, State Department bureaucrats have apparently been asleep for the last quarter-century and have missed the fact that since the U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979 in order to support Beijing’s one China policy, Taiwan has transformed itself from an authoritarian regime (much like China remains today) into a vibrant and open representative democracy, and that Taiwan has essentially functioned as an independent nation for more than half a century.

The Washington D.C.-based Heritage Foundation’s 2007 Index of Economic Freedom ranks Taiwan as the 26th freest economy in the world, with a score of over 71 percent, and describes Taiwan as one of Asia’s “most dynamic democracies.”

On the other hand, the Heritage index rates China as the 119th freest economy, with a paltry freedom score of just 54 percent. Calling China an autocratic state, Heritage notes that China imposes “severe restriction” on important areas of its economy, “Investment freedom, financial freedom, property rights and corruption are particularly egregious.”
In other words, Taiwan does not need America’s help building a democracy, but rather deserves America’s support for the representative democracy it has already achieved. And of all the countries in the world actually in need of some “democratic development,” China ranks right at the top.

Taiwan is not recognized as an independent country by the U.S.; instead, the United States has “unofficial” economic relations with Taiwan through the equally “unofficial” Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office. The lack of formal diplomatic relations on the part of the U.S. puts Taiwan, a friend to the U.S., in the same company as Iran, Cuba and North Korea.

Article 4, subsection 1 of the United Nations Charter plainly states that UN membership is “open to all other [non-founding] peace-loving states which accept the which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.”

Taiwan is clearly more of a peace-loving country than is China, which has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. China backs up its claim of sovereignty with hundreds of ballistic missiles pointed at Taiwan.

Taiwan is also clearly able to carry out UN obligations as a sovereign state. Taiwan has a defined geographical territory over which its representative government has sovereignty, a significant population and the fifth largest economy in Asia.

Moreover, a great many of the same nations (including the U.S.) who kowtow to China by opposing UN membership to Taiwan also already engage in trade and relations with Taiwan as if it were a sovereign nation.

As Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, a member of the House Taiwan Caucus and one of Taiwan’s strongest supporters in Washington recently noted, while Taiwan’s government enjoys formal diplomatic ties with mostly small and impoverished nations in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, “they maintain more than 100 quasi-embassies or “Trade Offices” in nearly every country in the world. And most of these countries (including the United States) maintain a reciprocal mission in Taiwan’s Capital City, Taipei. Why? The reason is obvious: Because they all realize that the totalitarian government of China doesn’t really speak for the people of democratic Taiwan.”

Other Colorado Representatives in the more than 150 member Taiwan Caucus include Doug Lamborn, Marilyn Musgrave and Mark Udall, making the Colorado Congressional Delegation’s support for Taiwan both bi-partisan and strong.

Taiwan is planning a nation-wide referendum next year on whether to again formally apply for UN membership. In his second inaugural address, President Bush told the nations of the world, “When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.” It is well past time for the U.S. to put those words into action and support Taiwan’s bid for international recognition.

Mike Krause directs the Justice Policy Initiative at the Independence Institute.