INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: by Jeffry Babb News Weekly
China frustrates Taiwan's bid to play bigger role
, September 10, 2005
China's formal veto in the UN Security Council means that Taiwan is denied participation in the UN, writes Jeffry Babb.Taiwan's application for entry to the United Nations has become something of an annual ritual; but this time around, a lot is at stake. The 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly is going to be held on September 13.
Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has adopted a new strategy of "presenting two proposals". This is a significant development in Taiwan's international diplomacy. Taiwan has proposed a proactive role for maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait, for presentation to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
While urging both sides of the Taiwan Strait to resolve disputes through peaceful means, this proposal also requests that Annan appoint a special envoy, or a fact-finding mission, to evaluate the security situation in the Taiwan Strait, report to the UN General Assembly and encourage both sides of the Taiwan Strait to adopt necessary measures to encourage and assist the commencement of peaceful dialogue and exchanges.Pretext to attack Taiwan
The adoption of this proposal would go a long way to making the Taiwan Strait issue a matter of international concern. On March 14, 2005, China adopted its "anti-secession law". This gives legal justification for China to attack Taiwan on some very flimsy pretexts.
The fact is that China has over 700 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan across the Taiwan Strait. China is enlarging its military forces, and is now said to have the world's third largest defence budget after the United States and Russia.
With a defence upgrade bill for Taiwan stuck in the island-state's legislature, the strategic situation in the Taiwan Strait is swinging in China's favour.
Recognising Taiwan's strategic position between south-east and north-east Asia, Japan and the United States have officially declared Taiwan to be a matter of concern for the alliance.
It is in the interests of the United States and its allies, including Australia, for Taiwan to form part of the defensive line in the Pacific to hold China's strategic ambitions in check.
To emphasise its regard for the importance of Taiwan, Washington is sending serving US personnel to Taiwan attached to what is, in the absence of formal diplomatic relations, the de facto
embassy, the American Institute in Taiwan. It is well known in Taiwan defence circles that the US is sending senior serving personnel to Taiwan to observe and advise. This marks a significant upgrade in Washington's assessment of Taiwan's importance to the United States.
From Taiwan's point of view, many opponents of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) profess that China would never invade Taiwan. This overlooks the fact that there are many occasions to use - or threaten to use - force that fall short of outright invasion. The role of military force is not only to fight, but also to deter.
Perhaps, in the long run, Taiwan cannot match China in sheer size of armaments; but it can deter an attack - and deter sabre-rattling - by its giant neighbour.
As Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes: "Peace in the Taiwan Strait relates to peace, prosperity and stability in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole. China has threatened to use force against Taiwan. It has endangered the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region, and this warrants a heightened concern by the whole world. Therefore, our allies are requesting the UN pay more attention to this issue, adopt all necessary measures and encourage and assist both sides to undertake peaceful dialogue and exchanges."
Some progress is being made by Taiwan in its peaceful interaction with China, but much remains to be done.
Taiwan is still seeking observer status with the World Health Organization (WHO). With the horrors of a pandemic, sparked by bird flu, the brutal use of China's formal veto in the UN Security Council, and an equally powerful informal veto in the WHO, means that Taiwan is denied participation, making its absence like a hole in the ozone layer of the world's protective mechanisms.
Preventing Taiwan's participation in the global fight against terror - in controlling terrorists and their capital flows, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and to undertake other cooperative measures to counter terrorism - is simply counterproductive.China's interference
Taiwan is not totally isolated. It belongs to APEC and the World Trade Organization (WTO); but once more the dead hand of China is evident. Taiwan is unable to send its president to APEC, along with other heads of government, as much as it would like to. In the WTO, Taiwan's efforts to assert itself as a major economy and trading nation are constantly frustrated by China's interference.
In all, Taiwan is a major player in the Asian security game. Under President Chen Shui-bian, it has attempted with some success to carve out an independent niche for itself apart from its purely economic role.
The fact is, Australia and its allies need a Taiwan that can act independently in international organisations such as the UN.
The leap to UN membership is a jump too far, but there is certainly much Australia could do to help Taiwan strengthen its international standing.