A letter to the editor appears in the Wall Street Journal today that offers an unusually cogent description of America's position on Taiwan. The letter by John J Tkacik illustrates the price that America and Taiwan both pay for America's general reluctance to state its view plainly.
America's official position is that Taiwan's status remains undecided. The agreement America reached with China in 1972 was not that Taiwan was part of China, but acknowledgement only that the Chinese government thought so. In effect, it was agreement to disagree.
Mr Tkacik writes:
As a US foreign service officer I worked on China and Taiwan affairs for 20 years, and I can attest that the US has never subscribed to China's territorial claims on Taiwan. Nor did President Richard Nixon ever publicly articulate such a policy.
.... Nixon's public policy was 'dual representation' in support of UN seats for both Taipei and Beijing. To this day, official US policy eschews recognition of China's claims to Taiwan. As recently as June 2007, the State Department's response (drafted by the Office of the Legal Advisor) to citizens concerned about Taiwan was that the U.S. has 'not formally recognized Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan and [has] not made any determination as to Taiwan's political status.'
In 2007, the US became alarmed that the UN Secretariat had issued documents asserting that the UN considered 'Taiwan for all purposes to be an integral part of the PRC.' US diplomats informed the secretariat that 'while that assertion was consistent with the Chinese position, it is not universally held by UN member states, including the United States.'
The US Mission then 'urged the UN Secretariat to review its policy on the status of Taiwan and to avoid taking sides in a sensitive matter on which UN members have agreed to disagree for over 35 years.' They warned that 'if the UN Secretariat insists on describing Taiwan as a part of the PRC, or on using nomenclature for Taiwan that implies such status, the United States will be obliged to disassociate itself on a national basis from such position.' The UN Secretariat has indeed ceased to assert that Taiwan is an integral part of China.
The full text of Mr Tkacik's letter appears at the Wall Street Journal site.