Allies Condemn U.N. at General Assembly for Leaving Taiwan Behind

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen takes part in an interview with AFP at the Presidential Office in Taipei on June 25, 2018. - Tsai on June 25 called on the international community to 'constrain' China by standing up for freedoms, casting her island's giant neighbour as a global threat to democracy. …
SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images

The few countries of the United Nations that recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty made a case for their ally’s inclusion in the General Assembly on Tuesday and Wednesday, urging the world not to allow China to intimidate it out of accepting reality.

The leaders of Guatemala, eSwatini, and Palau urged the United Nations – which recognizes breakaway territories like “Palestine” as nations, but not Taiwan, a nation that has never formally accepted China’s colonial aspirations over it – to include Taiwan in its activities. At a separate event outside of the main stage of the General Assembly, the Caribbean country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines similarly noted that it had partnered with Taiwan to receive medical aid.

The government in Taipei has expressed particular dismay recently at being excluded from United Nations activities to combat public health disasters like the Ebola outbreaks of Africa, to which it feels it can positively contribute.

Since Taiwan elected anti-communist President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, China has embarked on a campaign to alienate the island nation from its allies by bribing them with Chinese development funding, an especially effective pitch because many of Taiwan’s allies are small Latin American and Pacific Island nations. In the past month, China successfully reduced to 15 the number of countries that recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty after the Solomon Islands and Kiribati agreed to abandon Taiwan in exchange for Chinese cash.

America does not recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty, as doing so would require a full break in diplomatic ties with China. Washington does pressure other countries to do so, however, and has loosened its own diplomatic ties with countries that shift its position on Taiwan from recognizing the reality of the island nation’s independence to the United States’ view.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs gratefully shared the statements its allies made in its defense:

“Guatemala considers that all countries, particularly those that embrace democracy and the principles that gave life to the United Nations, have the right to belong to this grand organization,” President Jimmy Morales said on behalf of his country. “We believe that the experience and capability of the Republic of China, Taiwan, can contribute to the strengthening of multilateralism through this organization and its specialized agencies.”

Thomas Esang Remengesau Jr., the president of Palau, told the General Assembly that Taiwan’s “dignified participation” in the United Nations would be a boon to those seeking to fight climate change.

“Our collective commitment to leave no country behind also demands that we end our exclusion of Taiwan and its 23 million people,” he said. “This should apply here in the General Assembly as well in the reins of the international bodies that are so essential to establishing effective multilateralism, such as the World Health Assembly, the International Civil Aviation Assembly, and the United Nations framework convention on climate change.”

“We know from our partnership with Taiwan about the strength of its commitment to the sustainable development goals and its equal and dignified participation in the 2030 agenda processes will only strengthen our global effort to realize this agenda,” Remengesau said.

King Mswati III of eSwatini, Africa’s last monarchy and arguably Taiwan’s closest ally, scolded the United Nations for not treating Taiwan on “dignified and equal footing.”

“The United Nations’ bid of leaving no one behind will remain elusive if we continue to deprive other nations of the world the opportunity to play a pivotal role in the affairs of this august universal assembly,” he said. “We firmly believe that Taiwan is essential to the full implementation of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. The inclusion of Taiwan is a crucial step in realizing our pledge as stipulated in the preamble of the UN Assembly resolution.”

While most of Taiwan’s allies champion the democratic island nation without mentioning China, eSwatini’s diplomats have gone out of their way to warn China to stop trying to alienate the country, which it considers a rogue province.

“They must not play mind games because our relationship with Taiwan is over 50 years so we will not dump them,” eSwatini’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mgwagwa Gamedze said last year while visiting Taipei. “We have no desire to change camps since Taiwan has been good to us.”

The king of eSwatini did not note in his remarks that the United Nations was excluding Taiwan from its global plan to combat climate change at the behest of the world’s biggest polluter.

Taiwan has campaigned on the world stage to join global efforts against poverty, illness, and pollution – focusing on issues on which there is little political disagreement, such as fighting Ebola. This has made the World Health Assembly one of the largest battlefields on which Taiwan has staked its claim to legitimacy as a nation.

Last year, at the behest of China, the World Health Organization (WHO) blocked Taiwan from attending the assembly, triggering complaints from Germany, Japan, and the United States – none of which recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty. Taiwan had in the past attended as an “observer,” a compromise China had accepted before Tsai’s rise signaled a strong anti-communist shift on the island.

That year, Taiwan also offered to donate $1 million to the WHO for the ongoing Ebola fight, which has worsened in the past year as an outbreak in a war zone in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has spread. The donation was contingent upon the WHO respecting the Taiwanese government and noting its contributions to world public health. The WHO refused to treat Taiwan as it would any other donor country, forcing the cancelation of the donation.

Taiwan lost two of its allies – Kiribati and the Solomon Islands – in September after the Communist Party of China offered those countries funding for further development.

“China has once again resorted to dollar diplomacy and false promises of large amounts of foreign assistance to buy off a small number of politicians, so as to ensure that the government of Solomon Islands adopted a resolution to terminate relations with Taiwan before China’s National Day of October 1,” Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in response to the Solomon Islands statement. “Beijing’s purpose is to diminish Taiwan’s international presence, hurt the Taiwanese people and gradually suppress and eliminate Taiwan’s sovereignty.”

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