- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2002

Taiwan makes its case
NEW YORK Every autumn the Republic of China (Taiwan) makes an international appeal to join the United Nations, and every attempt by the island republic in the past decade has been overwhelmingly rebuffed.
This year will be no different.
On Sept. 11, the General Assembly will consider, and then reject, a resolution to make Taiwan a member of the United Nations.
But the island's political and business leaders haven't given up on U.N. recognition and are sailing ahead with efforts to promote their doomed cause.
"Our 23 million people aren't represented at the United Nations, and they are now the only ones," said Andrew Hsia, director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York. "Without U.N. involvement and participation, we have problems taking part in international life."
Beijing which won U.N. recognition 31 years ago as "the only legitimate representative" of China has blocked Taiwan's membership in international forums.
"There is but one China in the world, and Taiwan has been a part of China's territory since antiquity," Wang Yingfan, China's ambassador to the world body, wrote in an Aug. 12 letter to the General Assembly. Backing Taiwan's recognition "interferes in China's internal affairs."
About 160 governments officially subscribe to this view.
With only 27 diplomatic allies, Mr. Hsia says it is not his role to debate whether Taiwan is an independent country or an offshore province. His job, he said, is to try to figure out a way for Taiwan to participate in the United Nations, the World Health Organization and myriad international treaties until the day such political questions are settled.
Specifically, he said, Taiwan would like to join international treaties and participate in programs that benefit children and build peace.
"We want to participate, to give and to help," he said. "Instead, we are excluded."
Taiwanese assistance amounting to millions of dollars for refugees, women and disaster relief has been rejected, Mr. Hsia said, under pressure from Beijing.
Taiwan's leaders have made several stabs at international legitimacy since 1992, when the end of the Cold War increased the prestige and power of the United Nations and other international organizations.
Formal resolutions go down without a trace, while unofficial efforts usually are ignored or rebuffed.
This year, Taiwan and allies are trying again. A dozen of the 27 nations that recognize Taipei all of them poor African, Caribbean and South Pacific countries have floated a resolution "to recognize the right of the 23 million people of the Republic of China on Taiwan to representation in the United Nations system."
It will not be brought to a vote.
Last year, U.S. officials did not speak at the opening General Assembly debate, to the disappointment of Taiwan's officials.
"We certainly hope America will take a more positive attitude" this year, said Mr. Hsia. "But knowing how they work in the U.N., they need the cooperation from other members on the Security Council," where China holds a veto. "We try to understand."
Sympathetic observers note that the honor of U.N. membership already has gone to nations as young and small as East Timor, as dependent as the Marshall Islands, and as repressive as North Korea.
If the Palestinians who don't have statehood or a capital can be permanent observers with every privilege but a U.N. vote, they say, why can't some creative arrangement be crafted for Taiwan?
"Because Taiwan is not an independent country," said Sun Jiwen, a councilor with the Chinese mission who handles the Taiwan issue. "Switzerland is a country, and East Timor is a country," he noted, naming the two states that will formally join the United Nations this month. "Taiwan is not."
Critics have long accused Taipei of "checkbook diplomacy" buying support from aid-hungry nations. Taiwan rejects the label but makes no secret of its humanitarian-aid, foreign investment and trade preferences.
"Of course we help our friends, but also those who do not have ties to us," said Mr. Hsia, who points out that Taiwan is the world's eighth-largest source of foreign aid and direct investment, even though its opportunities to assist are strictly limited.
Mr. Hsia, who is informally called "ambassador," says he has no illusions about Taiwan's somewhat quixotic campaign for U.N. membership.
"But if we stop trying," he said, "people will forget about us."

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at UNear@aol.com.

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