Taiwan U.N. Membership Referendum Opposed by United States

Washington – The United States opposes a Taiwanese referendum “on whether to apply to the United Nations under the name Taiwan,” says a U.S. State Department spokesman.

Responding to a question at a news briefing June 22, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States strongly supports Taiwan’s democratic development and is not opposed to referenda in principle, but is against “any initiative that appears designed to change Taiwan’s status unilaterally.”

McCormack spoke with journalists after the fourth round of the U.S.-China Senior Dialogue, held by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte and Executive Vice Foreign Minister of China Dai Bingguo. They met June 20-21 in Washington and Wye River, Maryland.

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian is backing a plan for a referendum on the island’s U.N. membership to be held at the time of Taiwan’s presidential election in March 2008.  China is objecting strongly to the proposal.

McCormack said China raised various issues concerning Taiwan during the talks, including the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. In response to the Chinese concerns, the United States reiterated its “long-standing positions” on Taiwan, the U.S. spokesman said.

At a briefing June 19, McCormack said that “consistent with our one China policy, we do not support Taiwan’s membership in international organizations that require statehood, including the United Nations.”

He said the referendum would have no practical impact on Taiwan’s status, but “would increase tensions in the Taiwan Strait.” Maintenance of peace and stability across the strait “is of vital interest to the people of Taiwan and serves U.S. security interests as well,” he added.

“We urge President Chen to exercise leadership by rejecting such a proposed referendum,” McCormack said June 19.

The fourth round of the Senior Dialogue focused on a range of U.S.–China relations and international issues including stability in Northeast Asia, elimination of nuclear programs from the Korean Peninsula, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, global terrorism, energy security and climate change, and respect for human rights and the rule of law, according to the State Department.

The Senior Dialogue between the United States and China was initiated at the 2004 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders' meeting in Santiago, Chile. The first meeting was convened in Beijing, August 1-2, 2005. (See related article.)

The next round is expected to take place in Beijing before the end of 2007.

For additional information, see The United States and China.