FLASHBACK From John Bolton: March 17, 2000Taiwan Should Be Given Membership in the UN System

[This article originally appeared in the March 17, 2000, issue of HUMAN EVENTS.]

Despite overwhelming passage by the House of Representatives, the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act (TSEA) is stalled in the Senate, and the Republican Senate leadership is not sure when it will be brought to the floor. The Peoples Republic of China’s (PRC’s) harshly escalated threats to use force against Taiwan, although increasing support for the TSEA, have also complicated another leadership goal, the PRC’s membership in the World Trade Organization. As a result, and because of the impending March 18 presidential election on Taiwan, the TSEA is probably on hold for some time in the Senate.

Nonetheless, there is another critical issue for the Republic of China on Taiwan, and that is its membership in international organizations.

Ironically, even the PRC has long conceded that Taiwan is entitled to WTO entry once the PRC has joined, since WTO membership is open to all “customs territories.” Hong Kong, for example is already a separate WTO member, and will remain so if and when the PRC is also admitted. In the UN system, however, full membership is open only to “states,” and this is where the PRC and the Clinton Administration have drawn the line against Taiwan.

Even if TSEA is stalled for the foreseeable future, it is important for Congress to send Beijing a clear signal that congressional support for Taiwan remains undiminished.

Supporting Taiwan’s UN representation campaign is an excellent way to do so, especially as we are now entering the spring “season” of meetings of important UN governing bodies.

Congress generally accepts the legitimacy of Taiwan’s ongoing efforts to regain UN representation.

Even if TSEA is stalled for the foreseeable future, it is important for Congress to send Beijing a clear signal that congressional support for Taiwan remains undiminished. Supporting Taiwan’s UN representation campaign is an excellent way to do so.

Large, bipartisan majorities consistently support resolutions affirming support for Taiwan’s membership in the UN and its various specialized agencies. Taiwan has convincingly argued that it is a “state” under “customary international law,” and that denying UN representation to a democracy of 22 million people is unfair and unnecessary.

White House Hostility To Taiwan Has Grown

The Executive Branch, however, has never been sympathetic, and hostility toward Taiwan has actually increased during the Clinton Administration. And unfortunately, the record is clear that the UN General Assembly makes the right decisions only with American leadership. Even then, victory is far from assured.

For example, when the PLO sought full UN membership in 1989-1991, only active American opposition prevented it. The PLO hardly amounted to a “state,” and its efforts were simply ill-conceived efforts to create diplomatic “facts” in order to distort the Middle East peace process.

These arguments against the PLO ultimately proved persuasive, but only after repeated and sustained U.S. lobbying efforts in capitals and UN agencies.

Similarly, the 1991 repeal of the General Assembly’s notorious 1975 Resolution equating Zionism with racism required an unprecedented U.S.-Israeli diplomatic offensive before it proved successful. Most Americans took it for granted that the “Zionism is racism” resolution deserved an ignominious burial, but its elimination was by no means a certainty in the peculiar politics of the United Nations.

Moreover, on both the PLO membership issue and the repeal of “Zionism is racism,” Congress and the Executive were united, and worked together to achieve their common objectives.

Today, by contrast, the Department of State is actively opposed, hiding behind the PRC’s line that Taiwan is not a “state” in UN terms. What State really means, but is unwilling to say openly, is that it cannot conceive of UN representation both for Taiwan and the PRC under its “one China” policy.

Once again, the evidence refutes the Clinton position. No one seriously asserts that dual membership for the two Germanies had the slightest effect on their ultimate reunification.

Indeed, State’s actions contradict its own 1994 Taiwan policy decision that the administration would “support opportunities for Taiwan’s voice to be heard in organizations where its membership is not possible.”

State Department’s ‘One PRC’ Policy

In a recent report to Congress on the World Health Organization (WHO), the State Department has gone even further, by essentially accepting not just a “one China” policy, but a “one PRC” policy. The report discusses the possibility of a Taiwanese non-governmental organization affiliating with WHO, but cites language in WHO’s Constitution requiring “the consent of the government concerned.”

The report then states: “The PRC would assert–and others would accept–that only it has the right to consent to the participation of a Taiwan non-governmental organization.” Nowhere does the report indicate whether the Clinton Administration would be one of the “others,” but neither does it explicitly reject the idea that the PRC has a veto power over Taiwanese nongovernmental organizations.

Quite clearly, granting the PRC a veto even for this limited purpose creates a potentially enormous precedent for Beijing to pressure Washington on a wide range of other issues. Equally remarkable is the general passivity of the State Department report.

Even though only five pages of typewritten text, it repeatedly defers to the PRC’s policies and interpretations of cross-Straits relations and the American position. This is hardly surprising any longer, because deference to Beijing has been the touchstone of the Clinton’s China policy from the outset.

With TSEA on hold in the Senate, at least for now, Congress should not let UN representation for Taiwan rest unnoticed. While waiting for the right moment to press ahead with TSEA, the House and the Senate can and should highlight important policy disagreements with the Clinton Administration, and the international status of our long-term ally Taiwan definitely qualifies for priority treatment.