Thursday, October 18, 2007

UN Needs a New Member Nation

David Kopel and Michael Krause discuss the curious political situation that the island nation of Taiwan finds itself, and the shameful way in which that nation is being treated by both other democracies and world institutions.

"Originally used to identify the anti-Axis coalition of nations in World War II, today's "United Nations" members are rarely united on anything. And as the UN's latest actions against Taiwan's membership application demonstrate, the UN doesn't even live up to its own definition of "nations." And the mechanics of that rejection reveal a growing internal danger at the UN for the United States.

Article 4 of the United Nations Charter states that "Membership in the United Nations is open to all other [non-founding] peace-loving states 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."

In July, Taiwan applied for membership in the United Nations. By the Charter's standards, Taiwan should have been speedily admitted."

By any objective standard, Taiwan meets all of the criteria of nationhood, with a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and the capacity of having relations with other states, although it only has formal diplomatic relations with 23 states (more on that in a moment).

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon rejected Taiwan's application on the basis of the 1971 General Assembly resolution changing the permanent Chinese Security Council seat from the Chiang Kai-shek government of Taiwan to the Mao TSe-Tung government of the People's Republic. However, the resolution doesn't define anything about what consitutes "China" and China has only one period of 17 years in which it ever claimed sovereignty over the island previous to the Communist revolution, nor does it say anything regarding Tibet, which has a long history of independence before the 1951 invasion by the PRC. Of course the governments of both Taiwan and the PRC long held that they were both the legitimate government of China, but Taiwan has abrogated that claim with the development of its democracatic government following the collapse of the Chiang's dictatorship.

Unfortunately, the US delegation did not protest the rejection, which violated UN procedures because the request should have been forwarded to the Security Council - the Secretary General had no right to make any decision regarding the application himself. The US itself does not maintain formal diplomatic ties to Taiwan, which is unfortunate as it puts the government there in the same boat as such rogue regimes as Iran, North Korea and Cuba. Along with another 100 or so nations, the US does maintain "unoffical" relations, purely to maintain the legal fiction and kow-tow to the PRC.

While most Taiwanese (over 90%) do not consider themselves Chinese, the PRC most assuredly claims Taiwan as a rogue territory and continues to pressure other nations from recognizing Taiwan. In the 1960s over 60 nations recognized the island's government, but that has been reduced to 23 today due to the growing diplomatic, military and particularly economic might of the mainland. Beijing often blackmails small nations into withdrawing support from Taiwan as a pre-condition for economic agreements or developmental assistance. Of course, this is in addition to the thousands of ballistic missiles the mainland points at the island.

Taiwan plans a national referendum next year on whether to reapply to the UN, this time as the nation of Taiwan, as opposed to the "Republic of China", on of the leftover remnants form the days of Chiang. The piece ends with a rather interesting, poignant and thoroughly ironic comment.

"In the short run, China would use its Security Council veto to defeat the application, but China should at least start paying a diplomatic price for its hostility to Taiwan's right of self-determination. The more countries that support Taiwan's membership, the more that the Chinese government will fear that an invasion of Taiwan would be devastating to China's economic relationship to the rest of the world.

Deterring dictatorships from attacking democracies, and preserving the peace, are, after all, the reason the UN was founded in the first place."

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