FAPA Writes To National Security Council Protesting Its Taiwan Sovereignty Statement

For Immediate Release
Washington DC – August 31, 2007
Contact: (202) 547-3686

FAPA Writes To National Security Council Protesting Its Taiwan Sovereignty Statement

Mr. Dennis Wilder
National Security Council
The White House

Dear Mr. Wilder,

As an organization of Taiwanese-Americans with 56 chapters around the United States, we would like to react to your statement yesterday regarding Taiwan’s UN referendum and that country’s quest to become a new member of the United Nations.

You state that membership in the United Nations requires statehood, and then add: “Taiwan, or the Republic of China, is not at this point a state in the international community”, and you say that “…Taiwan is not going to be able to join the United Nations under current circumstances.”

This point is based on a widespread misperception: one has to distinguish between “being a state” and “recognition by other nations.”  Let me elaborate:

The most authoritative – and internationally-accepted — definition of being a nation state is given in the 1933 Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States (to which the US is a signatory), which gives the following qualification for recognition as a nation state: 1) a defined territory, 2) a permanent population, 3) a government capable of entering into relations with other nations.  Taiwan fulfills all these requirements: it is thus a nation-state.  Indeed it has diplomatic ties with 24 – albeit small – nations.

Recognition by other nations is not a pre-condition: if you go back into the history of the United States, you will find that for the first couple of years of its existence, the US was not recognized by any nation, and it only attained the number of 24 diplomatic ties in 1848 – some 72 years after the Declaration of Independence.  Was the US therefore not a nation–state during that time?

In the case of Taiwan, the issue is also “recognized as what?”: until only 15 years ago, the Kuomintang authorities still claimed recognition as government of China.  That claim was indeed not recognized by the international community.

However, after its remarkable transition to democracy in the early 1990s, there is now a free and democratic Taiwan, which only claims to represent itself.  We should not let its future be held hostage to either the unsavory legacy of the former repressive Chinese Nationalist rulers on the island, or the dictates of the present Chinese Communist rulers of the PRC.

Taiwan is a full-fledged democracy of world citizens, who want their country to be a full and equal member of the international community.  If we are serious about supporting democracy around the world, then we need to nurture the island’s fragile democracy, and support its desire to join international organizations such as the UN and WHO.  Taiwan can join the UN, if the United States and other Western nations have the political will to stand up for their basic principles of human rights and democracy.

Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to hearing from you,

Prof. Wen-yen Chen
Executive Director, Formosan Association for Public Affairs

Photo Credit: AgnosticPreachersKid (Wikimedia Commons)