The UN Needs Another Member

By Dave Kopel & Michael Krause

Tech Central Station, October 10 2007

It's time to change the name of the "United Nations." 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.

First of all, Taiwan is "peace-loving." It engages in no form of international aggression. And the UN hasn't exactly been strict about the "peace-loving" requirement for membership, since North Korea was admitted in 1991—even though North Korea is still legally in a state of war dating back to its invasion of South Korea. (An armistice was signed in 1953, but there has been no treaty or other act to legally end the war.)

No one seriously claims that Taiwan is unwilling to carry out the obligations of a UN member state; its track record of adhering to international law is strong, and far better than that of many current UN members.

And, obviously, Taiwan is a "nation." The standard international law definition of a "nation" is contained in the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States:

"The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states." Taiwan plainly has all of these, including formal diplomatic relations with 23 other states, and the "capacity" to have relations with every state.

So what's the problem? 

Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon claims that Taiwanese membership is "legally impossible." He points to the 1971 General Assembly resolution which took the China seat away from the Chiang Kai-Shek dictatorship, and awarded it to the Mao Tse-Tung dictatorship.

Moon would have a point if Taiwan were seeking to take over the seat currently held by the Chinese Communists, and thus to occupy the permanent Chinese membership in the Security Council.

But General Assembly resolution 2758 says nothing regarding Taiwan's status or its membership in the UN. Instead, it simply declares that "the representatives of the Government of the People's Republic of China are the only lawful representatives of China to the United Nations." Further, the resolution declares the General Assembly's decision "to expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all the organizations related to it."

The "representatives of Chiang Kai-Shek" claimed to be the legal rulers not only of Taiwan, but of China, and asserted that Taiwan and China were part of the same nation.

The resolution settles the question of who holds the China seat, but it says nothing about defining the territorial scope of "China." The resolution is silent about whether Taiwan is part of China. (In over three thousand recorded years of Chinese history before Mao started the revolution, you can find only a single period, 17 years in the late 19th century, when a Chinese government even claimed sovereignty over all of Taiwan.)

Likewise, General Assembly resolution 2758 is silent about Tibet, a nation with a long record of independence, which was invaded and conquered by Mao in 1951.

As the delegations of several nations pointed out to the General Assembly in September, Ban Ki-Moon violated the UN's own rules by personally rejecting Taiwan's application, rather than by forwarding it to the Security Council. According to Article 4 of the UN Charter, the Security Council is the body which is supposed to make membership recommendations for a final decision by the General Assembly.

Unfortunately, the United States delegation at the UN failed to speak up regarding Moon's power-grab. His action sets a terrible precedent of letting the Secretary-General get away with arrogating to himself and the Secretariat the authority which belongs to the Security Council. Protecting the powers of the Security Council (where the US has a permanent seat and a veto) from infringements by UN staff is essential in preventing the UN from becoming even more aggressively anti-American than it already is.

In June, a US State Department spokesman told reporters that while the US 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."

Like Rip Van Winkle, the State Department appears to have missed what's happened in the last couple decades. The "one China policy" dates from the 1971 Shanghai Communiqué, issued by President Richard Nixon and genocidal tyrant Mao Tse-Tung. It states: "The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position."

The document was a diplomatic lie, for in 1971 there were many people in Taiwan who considered Taiwan to be separate from China. They were, however, prevented from voicing their opinions, because the Chiang Kai-Shek police state silenced them, in order to maintain its ridiculous claim to be the legal ruler of China. The Communiqué might have more accurately stated "Both governments on either side of the Taiwan strait claim to hold sovereignty over the territory of the other, and both will ruthlessly persecute any person in their respective countries who says otherwise."

The latter statement is still accurate for China, but in Taiwan, everything has changed. The Chiang regime is long gone, replaced by a vibrant democracy. In 1973, Freedom House rated Taiwan a 6 (with 7 being the worst possible score) for Political Rights, and 5 for Civil Liberties. Now, Taiwan scores a 2 and 1. (Japan, by comparison, gets a 1 and 2.) 

China, meanwhile, progressed from 7/7 to 7/6. Mao's genocides are over,and these days the Chinese government outsources mass murder to client states such as Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma, and North Korea. 

The Heritage Foundation's 2007 Index of Economic Freedom ranks Taiwan as the 26th freest economy in the world, while China is 119th.

In Taiwan, only a minuscule band of Chiang die-hards claim that the Taipei government is legally sovereign over China. (Although China would be a lot better off if it were governed by Taipei democracy rather than Beijing kleptocracy.)

These days, just 6 percent of Taiwan's people consider themselves "Chinese." There is a rough balance between the large percentage who consider themselves Taiwanese only, and those who consider themselves both Taiwanese and Chinese. By about 8:1, the people of Taiwan reject China's claim of sovereignty over Taiwan, and China's efforts to interfere with Taiwan's self-determination.

The Chinese government, meanwhile, continues to push its campaign to smother Taiwan. In the 1960's, Taiwan had formal relations with more than 60 nations, including the United States, but with the loss of formal relations with Costa Rica earlier this year (which Beijing demanded as a condition of expansion of foreign aid and trade), the number of countries recognizing Taiwan has been reduced to 23.

Earlier this year Beijing pressured the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to downgrade Taiwan's membership in OIE to that of a "non-sovereign member" and to start referring to Taiwan as "Taipei, China." Sort of like referring to Poland as "Warsaw, Russia," since Russia ruled part of Poland for a while.

The American Declaration of Independence affirms the inherent right ofall people to self-determination, and, unlike the Shanghai Communiqué, the Declaration will never be obsolete. It is shameful that the United States does not formally recognize Taiwan diplomatically, putting Taiwan in the same category as the rogue tyrannies of Iran, Cuba and North Korea.

But the United States does have strong "unofficial" relations with Taiwan through the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington, and the American Institute in Taiwan, both of which pretend not to be diplomatic offices. As Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo recently noted, the Taiwanese "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."

The bipartisan Congressional Taiwan Caucus has more than 150 members. Like Israel, Taiwan is a lot more popular with Congress and the American people than it is with the State Department.

Taiwan is planning a nation-wide referendum next year on whether to again apply for UN membership, this time under the name "Taiwan." A left-over effect of the Chiang regime is that Taiwan's formal name is still "Republic of China," and the Chinese have been putting enormous pressure on Taiwan not to call itself "Taiwan," so the referendum would be a positive step in Taiwan's defense of its free identity. It would also be consistent with Confucius's advice about the first step for a good government: "It would certainly be to rectify the names . . . If the names are not correct, language is without an object." (Analects 13:3).

President Bush in his second inaugural address 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 UN membership. 

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.

Dave Kopel is Research Director and Mike Krause is a senior fellow at the Independence Institute in Golden, Colorado.


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