Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Taiwan Question

The question of Taiwan regularly makes international headlines, and has been a major obstacle in the development of US-Sino relations. Beijing blames Washington for continually interfering in a domestic issue; Taipei complains that the U.S. ought to help more, and Washington states that this issue should be resolved peacefully.

As briefly mentioned in an earlier article, U.S. involvement in the Korean War was in response to the implementation of the policy of containment. China's rush to assist North Korea antagonized Washington to such a degree that the previously-overlooked "rebel province" of Taiwan was able to successfully plead for "protection" from imminent takeover by the Red Army. On December 1, 1954, a Joint Statement was issued which welcomed Taiwan under the containment umbrella: "This treaty will forge another link in the system of collective security established by the various collective defense treaties already concluded between the United States and other countries in the Pacific area. Together, these arrangements provide the essential framework for the defense by the free peoples of the Western Pacific against Communist aggression."

During the Nixon administration in the early 1970s, a dialogue with China was reestablished, and in the First of three Joint Communiques, the Taiwan dispute was reviewed. China opposed the United States interfering in their domestic issue, and Washington responded accordingly: "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. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. With this prospect in mind, it affirms the ultimate objective of the withdrawal of all U.S. forces and military installations from Taiwan."

The Second Joint Communique, issued January 1, 1979, Washington recognized the Beijing as the sole legal government of China, and diplomatic relations were established.

This prompted an outcry both domestically and abroad for the United States to clearly state it's position concerning Taiwan, paving the way for the Taiwan Relations Act in April of the same year, which reaffirms the United States desire for a peaceful resolution to the issue: "It is the policy of the United States:
  • (1) to preserve and promote extensive, close, and friendly commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and the people on Taiwan, as well as the people on the China mainland and all other peoples of the Western Pacific area;
  • (2) to declare that peace and stability in the area are in the political, security, and economic interests of the United States, and are matters of international concern;
  • (3) to make clear that the United States decision to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China rests upon the expectation that the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means;
  • (4) to consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States;
  • (5) to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character; and
  • (6) to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.

  • In 1982, during negotiations with the PRC regarding the sales of arms to Taiwan, the Taiwan Government presented the United States with the "Six Assurances", a proposed set of guidelines to be used by the U.S. in relation to Taiwan. As the six points point to the desire for a peaceful resolution to the "One China" issue, the U.S. agreed to these points.

    Shortly thereafter, the Third Joint Communique was released in Beijing, concerning the Sales of Arms to Taiwan. Beijing firmly restated its' desire for Washington to cease all assistance to Taiwan. Washington acknowledged Beijing's point of view, and reiterated that also sought a final resolution to the issue, and, in what has become current policy, firmly placed responsibility back into the hands of the Chinese: "In order to bring about, over a period of time, a final settlement of the question of United States arms sales to Taiwan, which is an issue rooted in history, the two Governments will make every effort to adopt measures and create conditions conducive to the thorough settlement of this issue."

    In lieu of a current willingness on either side of the Taiwan Straits to seek out a peaceful resolution, or even to officially recognize those in power on the other side, the United States is still bound by it's policy to provide arms to Taipei, preventing aggression on the part of the PRC. To settle this question peacefully, internally, each side, Beijing and Taipei, have to meet each other as equals, dialogue as equals, and reach a mutually satisfying decision as to their permanent future together.