Friday, July 25, 2008

Honiara should follow Waigani and Suva

By Mathew Yakai in Changchun, China

SOLOMON Islands must not support the Taiwanese authorities for their proposed referendum for United Nations membership, instead must follow Papua New Guinea and Fiji in supporting the One China Policy.

In order to do this, Honiara must first switch allegiance to Beijing, and deal with Taiwan as an integral part of Great China.

Taipei Times reported that Southeastern African country of Malawi ended its 42-year diplomatic relations with Taiwan and switched its allegiance to Beijing last December, possibly the latest country.

Taipei berated Malawi for announcing its decision, which got Taipei by surprise while Minister Jamaes Huang and defeated President Chen Shui-bian were on a visit to Central America, for the usual “diplomatic witch hunting.”.

Taipei called the untimely break-up the “greatest insult” to the people of Taiwan.. For Malawi, it is for the best of its people.

The move left Taiwan with only 23 allies. In the Pacific are Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru, Kiribati and Tuvalu.

Radio Australia online reports that Palau has switched allegiance to Beijing but there is no official confirmation from Beijing as yet. And Marshall Islands is likely to follow suit. This now leave Solomons, Nauru, Kiribati and Tuvalu.

Solomons Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua must now consider Honiara’s stand, basically on the moral and legal bases.

I have mentioned in my last commentary and state again that Honiara should not even support Taiwan in any attempt to increase its so called “international space”, because any support from now on will disturb the people of China and also increase the existing tension between Taiwan and Beijing.

Countries are slowly but steadily switching allegiance to Beijing which reveals that it is the proper way about.

Documents reveal that Pacific is one of the most fiercely fought battle grounds between China and Taiwan for international recognition ever since the 1970s.

But the loss of Chen Chui-bian and the victory of pro-China party, Kuomintang, is unlikely to change the Taiwan’s policy of seeking diplomatic influence among small island states in the Pacific.

If we look at the broader picture, the number of countries that recognize Taiwan in the last two decades has reduced. These states scattered mostly in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Southwest Pacific.

As has been observed, they have only one thing in common: they are all either extremely small geographically, or economically impoverished. Most are actually both.

But when it comes to collecting numbers, these developing countries remain as important as any others. That’s why Honiara makes a lot of impact in China and U.N when supporting Taiwan. But does it worth?

Many have claimed that China has a stronger diplomatic presence in the South Pacific then any other country’s, which means that China has more diplomats, although not more diplomatic missions in the region.

There is also strong evidence to suggest that the so called “look north (or east)” strategy of the Pacific island states, especially Fiji and PNG is not only underwritten by trade and investment opportunities that China provides, but also by the appeal of the success of China’s economic development model.

Honiara has established diplomatic relations with Taiwan and made her position that she will support any move by Taipei towards independence or U.N membership as in the recent case.
However, the international community is well aware that Taiwan is an integral part of China and that remains to date.

PNG’s Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, Fiji’s Bainimarama, Canberra, New Zealand and other Pacific Island countries who uphold the One China Policy are adamant as well.

“Taiwan is a province of China and PNG will not have official contact of any kind with Taiwan,” Sir Michael reiterated at a meeting with Liu Yunshan, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

In the APEC meeting in Sydney, Sir Michael met China’s president Hu Jintao and assured Port Moresby’s loyalty. Other regional countries did likewise.

Latest political developments in both Solomons and Taipei should be an opportunity for Dr. Sikua to make a move, that will be his legacy once he leaves politics.

Former Solomons Prime Minister Manase Sogovare and former Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian have lost their post.

Chen calls Sogovare “brother” and it can be true biologically given the recent anthropoligical announcement that the Taiwanese have biological linkages with Pacific Islanders.

But politics is politics. Dr. Sikua can not compromise his country’s sovereignity with Taipei which is not a country by international standard.

On the diplomatic level, Dr. Sikua is the new man who must fix and properly set out Honiara’s foreign relations in the region. With Canberra it was perfectly and timely done. The next is either Taiwan or China. I would bet for China because it is legally warranted.

Dr. Sikua should not attempt to follow Sir Michael and Bainimarama’s footstep to show Canberra that he has other options, apart from Canberra to avoid the continuous Canberra “ big boy bullying ”. For Honiara, it must be for the benefit of the country given China’s rapid economic growth at an alarming rate of ten percent this year.

Kevin Rudd will even appreciate if Honiara shift recognition to Beijing. If he does not then it is not because he wants to help Honiara but to keep China away from the region where he has strategic interest. And that will be neocolonialism in the twenty first century.

Big brothers, Canberra and Wellington recognize the One China Policy too because it is inline with the international norms and values. As does by the big Melanesian brothers-Fiji and PNG.

All the Pacific neighbors have healthy bilateral and economic relationship with Beijing. Even trade and investments have been healthy. Most are on win-win situation.

Indian’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh was in China this week to strengthen his country’s bilateral relationship with Beijing. His first trip since taking office in 2004 is important because China and India are both growing fast economically and have big markets where they can rely on each other.

The largest living democracy and the largest communist state show to the world that ‘putting people first’ by working closely in any field of mutual benefit is of importance.

Despite their violatile border issue and possible arms race, their meeting is of benefit not only to their people but the region and the world as a whole as far as peace is concerned.

U.S. Navy Adm Timothy Keating, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command was also in China and reiterated that U.S supports the One China Policy but wants the Taiwan issue to be settled peacefully.

Adm Keating asked Beijing to stop building its arms, which is aimed at Taiwan but Beijing insisted that it has no intention to attack any countries.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said early last week that China will reform itself and keep opening up to the outside world.

“China will firmly insist on its reform and opening up, and is ready to develop trade, economic and technological cooperation with other countries in a fair and open environment,” said Wen.

Honiara is left out in “cold” at the waterback of the Pacific Ocean because it must actively participate in some of these regional activities going on, particularly with China.

Dr. Sikua has the prerogative to decide for his country’s foreign policy destination but considering the international and regional trend, the diplomatic ties with Beijing is proper.

It has been evident in the recent past that both Beijing and Taipei attempted to lure Pacific Island countries and other developing countries with money in the form of aid into their respective camps, when coming to address the Taiwan issue.

Both Beijing and Taipei have funded many projects in the Pacific. The Forum Secretariat in Fiji has received substantial donor to carry out identified projects for the collective benefits of the member countries.

Both may play what commentators say “money diplomacy”. But Honiara’s reputation on the international scene is of paramount and that is by recognizing One China Policy.

If any aid or support given by either Taipei or Beijing, one should not term it as “bribery” because Honiara, as a country has all the rights to deal with any country without any intereference fron anyone.

Taiwan is still working closely with countries that do not have bilateral ties with her. That is where Honiara can look at Taipei as an aeconomic and trading partner, but not diplomatically.

Taipei has contributed towards the regional governance in the area of SARS eradication, trade and investments. Taiwan is still helping developing countries in terms of human resources development, IT trainings, collaborative scientific researches, trade and investments.

Pacific Island contries who recognize the One China Policy have worked closely with Taiwan and benefited from its expertise.

In Port Moresby, Taiwan’s Trade Mission office has worked closely with respective bodies in the country and benefits have been tremendious
Honiara must not have any objections to the development of non-governmental economies and cultural ties with Taiwan. Taiwan’s participation in regional bodies like APEC can be of benefit to Honiara as well.

China’s Military spokes women, Jiang Yu reacted to Taiwan’s recent move seeking U.N membership that Chinese government is firmly against any move towards secession and that it is “seeking a close on the situation”.

And again, it is Solomon Islands that is leading the other developing countries in the world pushing for Taiwan’s referendum.

Definitely, Beijing can not punish Honiara for its support towards Taiwan as Honiara is a sovereign state. But the worst Beijing can do is to use its veto power to stop any help towards Honiara if needed. For instance, RAMSI is stressed and an immediate U.N intervention is needed.

Beijing with the conscious mind will think twice given its current interest in Honiara in terms of business and investments. Chinese citizens also do business and they promote person-to-person diplomacy between the two countries.

Beijing also needs Solomons timber and other resources for its growing economy.
Jiang’s point is very clear. “There is only one China. Taiwan is an inseparable part of it. The government of PRC is the only legal administration that represents China.”

Honiara’s recognition of Taiwan as a country considerably disturbs the people of China. This is inevitably worsening the Taiwan Issue, one of the dangerous today.

Taiwan’s attempt is neither urgent nor necessary. The then President Chen Chui-bian was only attempting to leave behind his legacy before he calls a quit.

Indeed, good thinking leaders can push for Taiwanese independence if Beijing bullies Taipei and human right issues are amongst the list of reasons for seeking independence.

But what’s happening is this. Chen Shui-bian came up with his “Taiwan independence” timetable is Sep 2003 on the occasion of the commemoration of the 17th anniversary of Democratic Progressive Party’s founding.

It involved: holding a referendum in tandem with “presidential election” in 2004; formulating a “new constitution” in 2006 and beginning to implement the “new constitution” in 2008, when he is to step down as “president”.

It is critical clear that it is absolutely impossible for Chen to craft a “new constitution” now that his second term expires already. So instead, he came up with a substitution – “the referendum on Taiwan’s UN membership.”

Solomons and other island countries who support Taipei must not be fooled before the international community.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed that Taiwan’s bid to apply for UN membership is legally impossible as per the U.N General Assembly Resolution 2758 which was adopted by the 26th Assembly in 1971.

Late last year, John Negroponte, US deputy secretary of state sent up a warning signal that the United States regards attempts by Taiwan authorities as proactive steps. This is by far the harshest warning by the Bush administration against Taiwan’s attempted “UN membership referendum”.

US criticism has never stopped since the Taiwan authorities started pushing for the “UN referendum”.

For example, during his visit to Taiwan in the middle of June last year, Raymond Burghardt in Taiwan, pressed Chen Shui-bian to reiterate his “four-nots” pledges (not to declare independence, not to change the name of the “Republic of China”, not to push for a two-states idea, not to hold any referendum on “unification” and “independence”).

At a press conference, Burghardt urged the “presidential candidates” from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Kuomintang (KMT) to be cautious in their words and deals and refrain from staging any provocative actions against the mainland.

Hsieh Chang-ting, the DPP’s “presidential candidates”, must have experienced the United States’ anti-referendum mood during his US visit late last year. All the officials he met in Washington DC, whether from the State Department, the National Security Council or the Pentagon, were opposed to the “UN membership referendum.”

Even “pro-Taiwan” US lawmakers shared the White House’s position in this respect. For example, Shelley Berkley, one of the co-chairs of the Taiwan caucus, told Hsiek Changting that it is not the time for Taiwan to join the United Nations.

The US military demonstrates the same attitude when speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Admiral Thimothy Keating, Commander in Chief of the U.S Pacific Commander, touched the opposition to Taiwan’s “UN membership referendum”.

The United Nations is an internbational organization composed of 192 sovereign states. In pushing for the Taiwan to join the U.N under the name of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian is actually pressing the international community to recognize Taiwan, a “sovereign independence” trick.
Second, he has been trying to leave behind him a “political legacy”.

Chen Shui-bian’s deny as a prominent figure on Taiwan’s political stage has been numbered and he just lost his presidency. Many scholars and researchers think that he is a vanishing personality.

But United States is interestingly having an important place in the Taiwan issue - finds itself in a delicate position.

On the one hand, it is immersed in increasingly complex relationships with the PRC economically, diplomatically and militarily. On the other, it is by law pledged to help defend Taiwan from Chinese oppression and, by its principles, dedicated to supporting democracy and self-determination.

Japan has shown to Beijing that the diplomatic relations and the recognition of One China Policy is of utmost importance when the new Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda visited Beijing late last year, his first official overseas trip since taking office .

When Malawi shift to Beijing, it stated clear that Malawi sees bright futurte with Beijing and can benefit a lot from Beijing’s rapid economic growth.

Honiara now has a task to fulfill, for its citizenry – to maintain bilateral relationship with Taiwan means missing out on opportunities Beijing is ready to offer.

Dr Sikua was recently appointed as the Prime Minister but seem to know diplomacy very well. He has brought back the long stand-off between Canberra and Honiara by delivering Moti.
He will travel to PNG, New Zealand and Australia to strengthen bilateral relationship with his neighbors.

When Dr. Sikua meets his counterparts, he should seek their opinion on whether to switch ties to Beijing.. There is no harm in that.

Dr. Sikua’s Melanesian brother Sir Michael would be honest to advise accordingly. And after the leg of trips, the local media would be interested to see Dr. Sikua’s first overseas trip to its neighbouring Asian countries,

Both Taipei and Beijing are ready to offer red carpet treatment, but Dr. Sikua must look at the longer term.

PNG’s sensational female weight lifter Dika Tou will be in Beijing this month to qualify for the August Beijing Olympic. From Honiara is the National weight-lifting queen Wendy Hale in intense training for the upcoming Oceania Olympic qualifier in New Zealand in March for the Beijing Olympic.

If both make to the Olympic, and that’s what the Pacific Islanders here in China are praying fervently. They will make great impact amongst the locals and international competitors.

This can go even further if Dr Sikua and Sir Michael join hand to say, “lets stick to One China Policy”, for a “win-win” diplomacy. China promotes “win-win” diplomacy in any areas. Sir Michael knows that better.

A meeting for Dr. Sikua and Sir Michael in Port Moresby is timely and God sent to discuss this, even its not on their agenda.

Note: “Asia-Pacific Perspective: China +” looks at Chinese society, culture, economy, governance and China’s role within the Asia Pacific region and the world over. It mainly focuses on how Onceania can learn from China’s experience.

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