Taiwan and the United Nations: Conflict between Domestic Policies and International Objectives

Wednesday, November 1, 1995

For reasons of nationalist sentiment and in hopes that it might help prevent People's Republic of China (PRC) military action, public opinion in Taiwan is strongly in favor of seeking U.N. membership. Responding to this sentiment, both major political parties, the ruling Kuomintang and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), eagerly support the idea. But consensus ends there.

To promote its program of ultimate de jure separation from China, the DPP wants to apply as a new member called Taiwan even though it understands that new members can enter only with approval of the Security Council in which the PRC holds a veto. The government wants a General Assembly (GA) study committee formed in hopes that it will recommend amending GA resolution 2758, which expelled the Republic of China (ROC) in 1971.

The Taiwan government's approach is half right: any General Assembly can amend or revoke a resolution adopted by one of its predecessors. But even if a study committee were formed--and two previous assemblies have declined to create one--the PRC would have one of the seats and, because such committees operate on a consensus basis, would be able to block such a recommendation.

Given that there is no court that will decide the matter, the best, indeed only, way to amend resolution 2758 is by direct appeal to the assembly. This can be successful if the ROC can accumulate a working majority of its voting members. The author argues that this can be done by working through the specialized agencies within the U.N. constellation to demonstrate to Third World countries the valuable contributions Taiwan can make to their hopes for development and thus enlist their support.