Letter: Taiwan is US territoryBy
Thursday, Nov 10,
There have been numerous articles in the Taipei Times
saying that Taiwan is already an independent sovereign nation, or
asserting that the independence and sovereignty of Taiwan should be
recognized. The point is to stress that Taiwan should be
acknowledged by the world community as a normal country and that its
diplomatic isolation should be ended.
I regret to say that I see no chance of Taiwan being recognized
as a normal country in the near future. Taiwan is not, at the most
basic level, a country at all.
Many writers have listed the four criteria for statehood as
specified in the Montevideo Convention of 1934. Taiwan seems to meet
all of them, but in fact it doesn't.
As an example, let's look at "a defined territory." There was no
transfer of the "sovereignty" of Formosa and the Pescadores (Penghu)
to the Republic of China (ROC) on Oct. 25, 1945. That date merely
marks the beginning of the military occupation of Taiwan by the
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Moreover, there was no transfer of
sovereignty of these areas in the postwar peace treaty. What is the
role of the ROC in Formosa and the Pescadores today? The answer is
I regret that most of the contributors to your editorial page
fail to recognize this fact. The few who do, however, go on to say
that whatever the postwar legal reality might have been, the
situation today is different. I categorize their misconceptions
First, that the ROC now has title to Taiwan based on
"prescription," ie, long and continuous ownership: This mistakes
prescription for territorial cession. Taiwan was a territorial
cession in Article 2b of the San Francisco treaty, and there must be
a clear transfer of territorial title in order for this to be
recognized as valid. The doctrine of "prescription" cannot be
invoked under such circumstances.
Second, that the ROC now has title to Taiwan based on "popular
sovereignty." This mistakes popular sovereignty for territorial
sovereignty. "Popular sovereignty" is the right for the people to
hold elections, to institute impeachment proceedings and the like.
Third, that the ROC has title to Taiwan based on "full control
over the Taiwan area, secondary to no one." This mistakes "effective
territorial control" for "territorial sovereignty." "Territorial
sovereignty" is held by a government. There would have to be a clear
transfer of title to the territory of Formosa and the Pescadores to
the ROC under the San Francisco treaty in order for this to be
accepted as valid.
Will saying that, "We are already independent," or "Our
independence should be recognized" help the Taiwanese people to
accomplish these goals? The answer is no.
After the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan, the Japanese
emperor agreed to an unconditional surrender on Aug. 15, 1945. On
Sept. 2, General Douglas MacArthur issued General Order No. 1, which
described procedures for surrender ceremonies and military
occupation in more than 20 areas. After examining this order, we
need to answer an important question: "Who is the occupying power?"
The only possible answer is the US. This is confirmed by Article
23 of the San Francisco treaty -- the US is described as "the
principal occupying power."
With this in mind, the Taiwanese people can demand that the US
commander-in-chief issue the order for the ROC to disband, because
the ROC is now blocking the Taiwanese people from enjoying
fundamental rights under the US Constitution. With the ROC out of
the way, Taiwan can change its name and make preparations for a
constitutional convention to draft a new constitution.
This would not be a unilateral change to the status quo, just a
full clarification of it. Could the US president object to such a
procedure? If so, he could be impeached. For the benefit of Taiwan's
future, pro-Taiwan groups in the US should promote this strategy
among members of the US Congress.
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