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Home Editorials of Interest Articles of Interest Don’t concede more on Taiwan

Don’t concede more on Taiwan

For those who are concerned that the democratic Taiwan should continue to have the freedom to choose its own future, President Obama’s coming visit to Beijing brings back the memory of a regrettable episode during President Clinton’s visit to China in June 1998.

Early in the spring of that year there were signs that the American Government would assure China that the United States would not defend Taiwan if she declared independence. On March 13, Joseph Nye proposed in Washington Post op-ed eliminating ambiguity in the American position and by starting that the United States would not recognize or defend Taiwan, if it were to declare independence.

I argued against such a policy in an op-ed in the Japan Times and directly to Assistant Secretary Stanley Roth in Tokyo when he was accompanying Secretary Albright on her way to Beijing for the preparation of the Presidential visit. My argument was as follows: “Suppose Taiwan declared independence and China used forced, believing in the American statement of its position, I wonder whether the American public and the Congress would acquiesce in abandoning a free and democratic Taiwan to China. If not, it is tantamount to tricking China into a war. It would be similar to how the Korean War began. The United States declared that South Korea is outside its defense line, but intervened when the North launched an attack, having possibly believed in your words.” I do not know whether my arguments had any influence, but there were no statements about not defending Taiwan then. Then on the eve of the President’s visit, stories began to circulate that the President was going to commit ‘three NOs,” that the US would oppose Taiwan independence, one-China-one-Taiwan policy and Taiwan’s formal membership in state-based international organizations. Fortunately, there was no mention of “three NOs” in the joint press conference, nor in the major policy speech at the BejingUniversity. Then the volte-face came. Dropping by in Shanghai, the President declared the “three NO’s” in a dialogue with Chinese intellectuals on a TV show.

Although the US Congress quickly rejected the commitment through resolutions of both Houses, China may still view the remark as an official commitment of the President of the United States and may quite likely expect President Obama to reconfirm it.

It is not difficult at all to suspect that there were some disgraceful deals behind the scenes. The date of the visit, to start with, is believed to have been besought by the US

to turn attention away from a domestic scandal, and that indebted the US to say three NOs and bypass Japan and Korea while making the longest trip that Clinton made to a single country. The topics to be discussed during the Shanghai TV interview, which had originally been planned to concentrate on cultural affairs, seemed to have been changed at short notice.

Through the 37 year history of US-China engagement, the United States has consistently retreated in the war of semantics ob Taiwan. The United States has been unable to muster points against the steel wall of one-party dictatorship. They lost inch by inch every time. However, each time, the Americans reassured the public that the US position hadn’t changed.

How deceptively the US position had eroded can be seen in the comments made by President Clinton. He began his remarks on the “three NOs” by stating that he was reiterating the American policy on Taiwan but not specifying the time of the previous remarks, whether it was during his meetings in Beijing or some unknown time ago. The National Security Adviser Sandy Berger explained that the United States had simply repeated its basic position.

In fact, the United States has kept on shifting its position. It started with an admirably objective statement by Dr. Henry Kissinger, National Security Adviser, in 1972. “The US 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”. This was cleverly phrased but would have become obsolete were Taiwan to declare independence. The retreat from this position began in 1983 by denying the intention of pursuing a policy of “ two Chinese” or “One China, One Taiwan”.

The word “pursuing” implies planning, working for, and encouraging, but it does not prevent the US from accepting a fait accompli of Taiwan’s independence. However, there is a more clear implication in the term “not support” used during Clinton’s visit of 1998, which is well explained in the editorials of the Washington Post among option that the Taiwan people eventually might choose.

The American reassurance to Taiwan at that time was that “not support” does not mean “oppose”. In fact “oppose” is the term coveted by China all through the Bush administration. China boasts domestically that it has won the commitment from the US, but no diplomatic record is yet to testify to such a position.

In the coming visit of President Obama, the best is not to go beyond the three communiqué’s. The bottom line is not to reconfirm the “three NOs”, which is already denied by Congress. Never accept the change from “not support” to “oppose”.

Incidentally, the Japanese Government, perhaps uncharacteristically, has never conceded an inch from its stand to “understand and respect the Chinese position” in the past 37 years.

Hisahiko Okazaki was Japanese ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Thailand. He now runs the Okazaki Institute, a think-tank.

Published by “ ACFR NewsGroup No.1528, Tuesday, October 27,2009

Source: Taiwanus.net



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