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Saturday, September 15, 2007

In the news ニュース

More articles about Taiwan in Japan's English-language media today. The best was this commentary from the Japan Times, "Taiwan's sad quest for U.N. membership", by Ramesh Thakur, "a distinguished fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation and a professor of political science at the University of Waterloo." Unlike the column the other day by Brad Glosserman, Thakur's piece is very sympathetic towards Taiwan's bid to enter the United Nations 国連. As the JT summarizes it:

"Taiwan's futile efforts to win some form of U.N. representation highlight a shameful example of the international community's lacking the courage of its convictions."

Thakur points out the gist of the problem:

"The most significant issue on which the international community of states is in complete denial is the way in which Taiwan has been "banned" from the U.N., just like undesirables in apartheid South Africa. Taiwan is refused membership, is not granted observer status, and does not figure in the U.N.'s statistical databases.

The refusal to permit any form of Taiwanese participation in the World Health Organization, for example, means that 23 million people are cut off from information on global health policy discussions, exchanges on technology and best practices, and the monitoring and prevention of epidemics."

Regarding Taiwan's UN application, he states:

"It satisfies all the normal criteria of a state: territory, people and effective control by a stable government. Moreover, as an island it has a natural demarcation. But on July 23, the U.N. Office of Legal Affairs returned the application. The decision has little to do with the merits of the application and everything to do with the geopolitics of China as a permanent member of the Security Council. Questioning the right of the secretariat to decide on the issue, Taiwan will try to take its case directly to the General Assembly, with little chance of success."

Thakur then points out how Taiwan has better credentials in the areas of democracy, human rights and self-determination than such places as Kosovo and East Timor, and that the island's population of 23 million is equal to the combined total of Australia and New Zealand, and bigger than that of many UN members. He concludes by saying:

"In his campaign for the post of U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki Moon made much of the fact that he is from a country that has actually made the transition from poor to high income and from an authoritarian to a democratic regime. South Korea's example is much more relevant to most U.N. member states than countries that have failed to make the transition and others that were already developed.

Like South Korea, Taiwan is a vibrant democracy and a dynamic economy. It is the world's only Chinese democracy. Both countries embody U.N. ideals, values and aspirations. In March 2008, the Taiwanese people might get a chance to express their opinion directly on a referendum on U.N. membership. Yet, far from welcoming direct democracy, most outsiders are counseling "restraint" on Taiwan.

So much for "We the people." As the great Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn noted, the U.N. is the place where the peoples of the world are often served up to the designs of governments. In the decades to come, we are likely to look back at the Taiwan charade as one of the more shameful examples of the international community lacking the courage of its convictions."

Ban Ki-moon has shown himself to be very pro-Chinese in the past (his refusal to condemn capital punishment, the first time a UN Secretary-General has declined to do so, was no doubt out of a desire not to offend China, which leads the world in executions), so he isn't likely to show any sympathy towards Taiwan, despite the similarities to his own country. But Thakur is right on the mark in his analysis of Taiwan's lack of representation in the world body of nations. The government here should hire this man to argue its case!

The Daily Yomiuri had a short article about the unveiling of Taiwan's new Kidd-class destroyer, recently purchased from the USA. It doesn't seem to be a major story, but the Yomiuri featured it prominently in its World section.

My daughter does some business over the phone while checking to see how her お握り order is coming along.

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