- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2007

NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon affirmed yesterday that Taiwan’s reinvigorated quest for U.N. membership will not be considered by the world body, citing historical resolutions that favor China.

The People’s Republic of China is “the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations,” Mr. Ban told reporters at a press conference to preview major themes of the upcoming U.N. General Assembly debate, an annual event that opens Tuesday.

He said the issue had been “very carefully considered by the Secretariat and … it was not legally possible to receive the purported application for membership.”

Chen Shui-bian, president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), sent a letter to the secretary-general in July, pressing the island’s case for membership. But Mr. Ban’s office returned the letter unopened, saying the Office of Legal Affairs had advised them that a 1971 resolution precludes it from even accepting a letter from Taipei.

This is the 11th year Taipei has sought U.N. membership, a quixotic effort that always stalls at the very first step — approval in the U.N. Security Council, where China holds a veto.

The council must recommend any country for membership, as it has done recently with newly independent East Timor and Macedonia.

The United States, which also has a veto in the council, has largely stayed out of the battle: Government officials have privately discouraged Taiwan from pushing too hard and upsetting already-tense cross-strait relations with steps toward independence.

U.S. conservatives, from John R. Bolton to Bob Dole, have publicly endorsed Taipei’s bid. Taiwan and its supporters point out that Resolution 2758 does not mention Taiwan by name, merely stating that the territory is “a part of China.”

U.N. officials adhere so strictly to the resolution that the U.N. Department of Public Information refuses to accredit journalists from Taiwan. Nor can the World Health Organization include Taiwan in discussions of regional interest, such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome and bird-flu outbreaks.

Taiwan is allowed to contribute to disaster relief, U.N. officials say, as long as it routes its contributions through private organizations.

Undiscouraged, Taipei stepped up its efforts for international recognition this year. For the first time, it has applied under the name Taiwan, instead of the more circumspect Republic of China.

In addition to buying advertising in U.S. newspapers and on bus shelters near the United Nations’ headquarters, the government has taken the unusual step of underwriting the tour of Taiwanese metal-rockers CthoniC, whose trademark song is called “UNlimited.”

Mr. Chen’s political party has capitalized on the U.N. question, encouraging rallies and promising action.

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