Friday, September 4, 2009

The U.S. Doesn't Recognize China's Claims to Taiwan
SEPTEMBER 1, 2009, 7:56 P.M. ET

The U.S. Doesn't Recognize China's Claims to Taiwan

It may be ancient history, but Richard V. Allen's memory of Nixon's Taiwan policy is garbled ("The Next Step in the Taiwan-China Dance," Aug. 17). As a U.S. foreign service officer I worked on China and Taiwan affairs for 20 years, and I can attest that the U.S. has never subscribed to China's territorial claims on Taiwan. Nor did President Richard Nixon ever publicly articulate such a policy.

In fact, Nixon instructed his ambassador to the United Nations (then George H. W. Bush) to vote against the People's Republic of China's admission to the U.N. on Oct. 25, 1971 (even though he and Henry Kissinger knew they didn't have the votes in the U.N. General Assembly) precisely because that vote required the expulsion of Taiwan's representatives. Nixon's public policy was "dual representation" in support of U.N. seats for both Taipei and Beijing. To this day, official U.S. policy eschews recognition of China's claims to Taiwan. As recently as June 2007, the State Department's response (drafted by the Office of the Legal Advisor) to citizens concerned about Taiwan was that the U.S. has "not formally recognized Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan and [has] not made any determination as to Taiwan's political status."

In 2007, the U.S. became alarmed that the U.N. Secretariat had issued documents asserting that the U.N. considered "Taiwan for all purposes to be an integral part of the PRC." U.S. diplomats informed the secretariat that "while that assertion was consistent with the Chinese position, it is not universally held by U.N. member states, including the United States."

The U.S. Mission then "urged the U.N. Secretariat to review its policy on the status of Taiwan and to avoid taking sides in a sensitive matter on which U.N. members have agreed to disagree for over 35 years." They warned that "if the U.N. Secretariat insists on describing Taiwan as a part of the PRC, or on using nomenclature for Taiwan that implies such status, the United States will be obliged to disassociate itself on a national basis from such position." The U.N. Secretariat has indeed ceased to assert that Taiwan is an integral part of China.

Mr. Allen's phrase "there is but one China, and Taiwan is part of China" is a purely Chinese formula. It is testimony to the effectiveness of Beijing's (and the weakness of the State Department's) public diplomacy that Mr. Allen, himself a friend of Taiwan, confuses China's policy with America's.

John J. Tkacik, Jr.
Alexandria, Va.

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