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National Review: Time for US to recognize ROC again

National Review: Time for US to recognize ROC again

With American media going ape over President Barack Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, Josh Gelernter says in the US magazine National Review this week that there is “another island” that is even more worthy of having its ties with the US restored – Taiwan.

Gelernter, who writes a weekly column for the NR, notes that when the US broke diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979 it was a ‘defensible decision’. He says the primary motive behind the reasoning offered by President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was to move closer to Beijing as a counterbalance to the USSR in the ongoing Cold War struggle between Washington and Moscow.

Now, however, things have changed, he notes, and Taiwan stands out as a “beacon of democracy” in Asia which is overshadowed by the PRC and its totalitarian state on the other side of the Taiwan Strait.

Thus despite Taiwan’s position as a largely democratic entity in which the “government derives its power from the consent of the governed,” the US does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taipei, and day-to-day dealings between the two governments and the two peoples are handled by the semi-private American Institute in Taiwan.

At present the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are in a stand-off in which China claims Taiwan is a renegade province to be retaken by force if necessary, while the ROC and its constitution say they are the rightful rulers of Greater China. The US maintained recognition of the ROC and supported it in the United Nations until 1972 when Nixon and Kissinger shifted their attention to China in order to weaken the influence of the Soviet Union, gradually extending cooperation with communist China. Eventually diplomatic relations with China were formally established in 1979, and Taiwan was brusquely pushed to the side.

Now, says Gelernter, it is time for the US to own up to the fact that Taiwan is a democratic society with popular elections, freedom of speech and religion and a dynamic economy, a bright spot against the ominous shadow cast by China with its blustering and nearly 2000 missiles threatening Taiwan across the narrow Taiwan strait.

The US should act on the spirit shown in its altered stance toward Cuba by recognizing Taiwan and establishing a mutual defense treaty. Such a move would not only be practical, notes Gelernter, it would also have a huge moral impact on relations between the US and all of Asia.

While it is neither realistic nor necessary to end recognition of the PRC government as the de facto ruler of China, says Gelernter, recognizing the government of Taiwan as the legitimate government of Taiwan (his emphasis) and re-establishing the lapsed mutual-defense treaty between the US and the ROC is not only realistic, it “verges on a moral imperative”.

At a time when China is aggressively building up its military and expanding its presence in the South China Sea – much to the alarm of the Philippines, Vietnam and other nations with interests in free and unhindered access to its shipping lanes – re-working the relationship between the US and Taiwan would be “useful in preserving the integrity of international waters”, he writes.

Gelernter cites John F. Kennedy and his vow that the US would “oppose any foe” as well as “support any friend… to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Now, Obama’s move in establishing relations with Havana has won a wide measure of support, and as Gelernter and a strong body of Taiwan supporters in the US will readily agree, it is time to consider doing the same for the ROC.

Updated : 2021-09-23 09:03 GMT+08:00