Geopolitics

Taiwan – Why Shy Full Relations?
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Issue Vol. 30.4 Oct-Dec 2015 | Date : 04 Dec , 2015

If Taiwan is annexed by China, the PLA Navy would be able to extend its reach to the second island chain, right down to Guam, the Marianas and even some other smaller islands in the central Pacific as important are the Taiwanese ports, which would provide Chinese submarines quick access to the deep waters of the Pacific. Therefore, Taiwan should logically remain critical to US interests both strategically and militarily. To the rest of the world including India, China’s annexation of Taiwan will turn China into a worse rogue than Nazi Germany thereby endangering peace and stability in every part of the world.

In 1971, Taiwan was expelled from the Security Council and other such UN bodies under Resolution 2758 at the behest of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)…

Earlier this year, the Chinese media went berserk when Taiwan’s national flag was unfurled at the Taiwanese Representative’s residence in Washington DC on New Year’s Day. In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had protested to the US about the January 01 ceremony, requesting Washington to “act with discretion when dealing with Taiwan-related issues.” The US State Department responded it was not given advance notice about the flag hoisting ceremony and that “nothing has changed” in the status of the US-Taiwanese relationship while adding that the US remains committed to the One-China policy.

Interestingly, the Taipei Times newspaper cited the Taiwanese representative to the US, Shen Lyu-shun, as saying his office had notified the Obama administration before the flag hoisting ceremony on January 01 and received US approval provided the ceremony was low-profile and not televised. Taiwan has the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington, as Taiwan’s mission; same as in India, while India too recognised the One-China policy some years ago. The Taiwanese flag hoisting in Washington DC was obviously a diplomatic signal to China as her self-proclaimed One-China Policy is bursting at the seams in a bid to grab more and more territory in complete disregard to global norms and sensitivities of other nations. But the fact remains that while Taiwan may be referred as Republic of China (Taiwan) because of overbearing Chinese pressure globally, Taiwan is very much a separate country and has enough self-esteem and pride to remain so.

Taiwan, China and the United Nations

Not very many would be aware that Taiwan was a founding member of the United Nations and held the seat of what is now with China on the Security Council and other UN bodies as late as 1971. It was in 1971 that Taiwan was expelled from the Security Council and other such UN bodies under Resolution 2758 at the behest of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and was replaced by the latter. The irony is that every year since 1992, Taiwan has petitioned the UN for entry, but its application has not made past the recommendation committee because of the PRC. This is one major reason that China is dead against the expansion of the UNSC’s permanent membership, especially inclusion of those countries having friendly relations with Taiwan.

Chinese obduracy in doing down Taiwan did not cease with Resolution 2758, which back-stabbed the political status of Taiwan…

But is it not ironic that in an era where opinions are being geared to provide Palestine entry into the UN, a country like Taiwan that has remained independent since past over six and a half decades is denied so, best part being that it had such status till 1971? Very significantly, Article 3 of the United Nations provides that original Members of the United Nations shall be the states which, having participated in the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco, or having previously signed the Declaration by United Nations of January 01, 1942, signed the present Charter and ratified it in accordance with Article 110. By this decree, Taiwan was very much a member of the United Nations having participated in all these events and affixed its signatures. In addition to such above participation and being signatory to these, Taiwan had also signed and ratified the April 18, 1961, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, as also its refined version on December 19, 1969.

Chinese obduracy in doing down Taiwan did not cease with Resolution 2758, which back-stabbed the political status of Taiwan. It is only in 2010 that Taiwan was invited as observer to attend the World Health Assembly but under the name of Chinese Taipei; this despite countries like the US and Japan continuously supporting Taiwan’s bid for membership of the WHO since 1997. Interestingly, the Republic of China (Taiwan) is a member of the Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organization (UNPO), represented by a Taiwan Government funded organisation; the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD) under the name “Taiwan”. Incidentally, the UNPO headquartered at The Hague (Netherlands) has 42 group members including Taiwan, Tibet, East Turkestan, Baluchistan, and Gilgit-Baltistan, besides others.

So, you have this ridiculous situation where China insists that the Republic of China (better known as Taiwan) should call itself Chinese Taipei. This despite the fact, that China has never ever exercised sovereignty over Taiwan. Historically, the Republic of China (ROC) has all along exercised control over Taiwan and its islands and continues to do so. ROC President Ma Ying-jeou has categorically stated, “The Republic of China is a sovereign country, and mainland China is part of our territory according to the Constitution. Therefore, our relations with the mainland are not international relations. It is a special relationship.”

Taiwan has relations with numerous countries but the official diplomatic ties are with 23 countries…

The Government of Republic of China (Taiwan) was founded on the Constitution of the ROC and its Three Principles of the People, which pointedly states that the ROC “shall be a Democratic Republic of the People, to be governed By the People and For the People”. The bottom-line is that Taiwan is an island country which for all practical purposes been independent since 1950, but which China regards as a rebel region that must be reunited with the mainland – by force if necessary.

Presently, China is following a policy of gradual economic, social and cultural integration with Taiwan while not explicitly ruling out the use of force. The mockery of the Chinese territorial claims is that while China attacked and overthrew the Kuomintang regime, it is on the basis of the Kuomintang maps and sketches discovered later that China has put forward the claims about the 9-dash line and arbitrarily extended her EEZ in total disregard of UNCLOS and international norms of global commons; claiming the whole of East China Sea and parts of South China Sea. The multiple claimants to the South China Sea include China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia but the claims of both Taiwan and China are exactly the same – identically represented on maps of both these countries.

Taiwan and International Relations

Taiwan has relations with numerous countries but the official diplomatic ties are with 23 countries including three countries of Africa, 11 countries in the Americas, six countries in Oceania, and in Europe with the Holy City of Vatican. In other countries, Taiwan maintains Representative Office or Cultural and Economic Missions. Similarly, the diplomatic missions in Taiwan include embassies and representative offices. Due to the issue of special political status and the so called One-China Policy, the Republic of China (Taiwan) is recognized by 23 countries; 20 of them having their embassy in Taipei In addition, some 50 countries, which do not have diplomatic relations with the Republic of China, have established trade offices and other unofficial offices in Taiwan, which have a wide array of titles. Taiwan is also represented at the European Union through the Taipei Representative Office for the EU and Belgium located at Brussels. Similarly, Taiwan is represented at the World Trade Organization through its Permanent Mission of the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu located at Geneva.

Despite periodic whimpering and protests by China, successive US administrations have sold weapon systems and armament to Taiwan over the years…

Joint Statements by the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee of 2005, 2011 and 2013 outline common strategic objectives for both countries, which include encouraging peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait through dialogue and encourage China’s responsible and constructive role in regional stability and prosperity, its cooperation on global issues, and its adherence to international norms of behavior, while building mutual trust. Not only is Taiwan a staunch supporter of the Official Development Assistance (ODA), Taiwan’s Foreign Assistance and International Cooperation projects are managed by the International Cooperation and Development Fund. The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) passed by the US Congress is the bedrock of the Taiwan-US defence relations. The act provides for – one, the US to intervene militarily if the PRC attacks or invades Taiwan; two, the US will make available to Taiwan such defence articles and defence services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defence capabilities – decision with regard to the nature and quantity of defence services to be determined by the President and Congress; three, US will consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts and embargos, and; threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area are of grave concern to the US.

Despite periodic whimpering and protests by China, successive US administrations have sold weapon systems and armament to Taiwan over the years. US weapons sales to Taiwan include the AAV7A1 amphibious assault vehicles, the AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters, the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, Kidd-Class Destroyers equipped with SM-2 air-defence missiles and a joint combat management system, the Patriot Missile Systems, command and control systems, and early warning radars. Taiwan’s request to the US for purchase of Aegis Class Destroyers, submarines and F-16C/D fighters, have led to protracted negotiations and discussions.

In 2002, Taiwan again requested four Arleigh Burke-class, Aegis-equipped destroyers, for delivery in 2010 and at a cost of about $4.8 billion but did not get any US response. In July 2012, Taiwan signed an agreement with the US for 142 x F- 16A/B fighter upgrade programme at a cost of $3.7 billion, which is expected to be completed by 2021. In 2014, President Ma Ying-jeou stated Taiwan’s resolve for an Indigenous Diesel Submarine programme, potentially with foreign technology to build submarines for training in anti-submarine warfare.

The US-China-Taiwan conundrum undoubtedly is a tricky affair albeit the Taiwanese have genuine apprehension how much of US support they would get in the event of China actually using force…

In April 2014, while reaffirming the Taiwan Relations Act, the US House of Representatives agreed to authorise the sale to Taiwan of four second-hand US warships, much to the chagrin and protests by the Chinese Ministry of National Defence. The Chinese defence ministry website said, “The US side ignored China’s strong opposition, and insisted on passing the bill pushing weapons sales to Taiwan. This act is highly damaging, and doubtless will seriously interfere in and damage the development of Sino-US military ties and the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.”

As part of mutual military cooperation and guidance, the US and Taiwan conduct the ‘Han Kuang’ joint force exercise every year. Periodic Regional Security Forums held in Taiwan also have participation, besides US and Taiwan, by other Indo-Pacific countries. US support is vital to Taiwan, including supplies of US arms while maintaining a ‘One-China’ policy stance. The US-China-Taiwan conundrum undoubtedly is a tricky affair albeit the Taiwanese have genuine apprehension how much of US support they would get in the event of China actually using force.

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Taiwan became a multi-party democracy in early 1990s. It is a major producer of computer technology, which constitutes bulk of its exports to China. Though Taiwan signed a trade pact with China in 2010, China’s increasingly all round aggressively hegemonic posture led to hundreds of young activists in March last year occupying Taiwan’s parliament building in mass protest against the trade pact aimed at forging closer ties with Beijing. Resultantly, the government’s pro-China policy led to a crushing defeat for the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party in local elections forcing Ma Ying-jeou to step down as Chairman of KMT.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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One thought on “Taiwan – Why Shy Full Relations?

  1. china is malicious country and will not dare to adventure taiwan as it know the us reaction it is wating to oncrease power and wealing of usa real cunning way
    it will also not attack india
    as it quickly reacted to the statement of airforce chief dont worry let us increase our power and make good relation with usa as our moto is to is let live and let other to live

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