May 30, 2004

Taiwan: US will support Taiwan's bid for OAS observership

The US said it would like to see Taiwan become an observer of the organization, which granted observer status to China earlier in the week
The US has pledged to help Taiwan secure a position as a permanent observer in the Organization of American States (OAS), the Western Hemisphere's political and economic cooperation organization, a day after the OAS granted China permanent observer status.

Taiwan's application, which it submitted last month, will be discussed at next month's meeting of the OAS Permanent Council.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters that the US "joined the consensus" on the OAS vote on Wednesday to grant China observer status.

"At the same time, we noted our strong support for the OAS to find a way that provides for Taiwan to participate in the OAS," he said.

Taiwan submitted its application to gain permanent observer status to the OAS' Washington headquarters on April 27. It was passed on by Chen Chien-jen (???), head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington, according to OAS documents.

The general secretariat trans-mitted the request to the Permanent Council, which has the final say on applications. China's ambassador to Washington, Yang Jiechi (???), submitted a similar bid on March 12.

China's admission brings to 60 the number of permanent observers to the OAS, which has a membership of 35 countries. Of those, Taiwan has diplomatic relations with 13. If those memebers and the US vote for Taiwan's participation at the Permanent Council meeting, they would need only four more votes for Taiwan to be accepted into the organization.

A legal opinion presented to the Permanent Council by the Secretariat for Legal Affairs last Friday raised questions about Taiwan's suitability for participation. However, Boucher indicated that ways might be found around the legal problems.

Taiwan's bid was debated at a Permanent Council meeting on May 12. In its effort to support Taiwan, the US delegation "pointed out that precedents do exist for non-state organizations to participate in some fashion," Boucher said.

"So they agreed to place on the agenda of the next Permanent Council meeting the request of Taiwan for OAS permanent observer status, and we would look forward to a good discussion of Taiwan's efforts to find a way to contribute in a positive and constructive way to the work of the OAS," he said.

In its legal opinion, the legal affairs section noted that Taiwan's and China's parallel applications were requests for "the admission of a state ... and not of any other entity of a different nature." Therefore, "at issue is one and the same state with a different territory."

"We are therefore not dealing with two requests from two governments of two different states, but rather two different authorities requesting that the [observer] status ... be granted to one and the same state.

"Should the status of permanent observer be granted to the state of China, what must be decided is which of the two applicants will represent it, since only one government, and one alone, can represent a state," the legal opinion said.

In reaching this conclusion, the opinion went back to the 1971 UN expulsion of Taiwan in favor of Beijing.

It was unclear how much of modern history and developments in Taiwan affected the lawyers' opinions. But they made no mention of them.

The opinion did, however, note that the OAS is related to the UN, which refuses to seat Taiwan.

While noting that a number of OAS states recognize Taiwan diplomatically while others don't, the legal opinion said such differences "are not affected by the participation of member states in the international organization."

"Even those governments that do not have diplomatic relations with the Beijing authorities but that have relations with Taiwan, recognized as valid by participation of the Beijing authorities as the representative of China in their dealings within the United Nations, so that on the bilateral level, recognition of Taiwan as the government of the Chinese state can be maintained, whereas in the international organizations dealing with the government of Beijing as the government of the Chinese state, does not imply recognition of that government," the opinion said.

Source: Taipei Times