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Taiwan

Taiwan officials in New York on United Nations charm offensive

The self-ruled island hopes to take advantage of perceived support from the United States in its latest bid to rejoin the world body

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 September, 2018, 3:14pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 September, 2018, 9:05pm

Taiwan is launching a fresh charm offensive in its bid to rejoin the United Nations, or at least its agencies, amid sour China-US relations and growing concerns over Chinese economic and military expansion in the Indo-Pacific region.

Two of the self-ruled island’s cabinet officials – Environmental Protection Administration deputy minister Thomas Chan and State Minister Audrey Tang – have flown to New York to promote Taiwan’s achievement of the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs), even though the island is not a UN member.

“Chan will brief participants on Taiwan’s accomplishments over the past year in meeting the SDGs, at a seminar jointly organised by our representative office in New York, the Marshall Islands government, and Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society,” Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.

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Tang will deliver a speech on Thursday at a digital forum, jointly organised by Taiwan’s representative office in New York and Columbia University, on how Taiwan is using digital technology and social innovative measures to put SDGs into practice, according to the ministry.

The two officials would take part in several other activities while in New York to promote Taiwan’s efforts and contributions to UN sustainable developments, global health and climate areas, it said.

Meanwhile, the legislature has also sent four lawmakers to New York to promote the island’s cause, while several of Taiwan’s NGOs will hold activities during the UN General Assembly meeting between Tuesday and October 1.

The island’s timing of its latest lobbying is deemed optimal after the US – already in a trade war with China – rebuked Beijing for its diplomatic squeeze of Taiwan, in a sign of its support for Taipei, observers said.

Although it would be unlikely for the UN to readmit Taipei, the observers said the island should be able to gain more sympathy and support from other countries.

Taiwan lost its UN membership in 1971 after the General Assembly voted to recognise Beijing as the sole representative of China.

The island has been making a concerted effort to rejoin the world body since 1993, but to no avail, due to the objection of Beijing, which has a right of veto as a member of the Security Council.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said that instead of asking to rejoin the UN directly, the government had changed tactics by seeking to join UN affiliated agencies, especially those that do not require statehood, like the World Health Organisation.

This year, the island has decided to focus more on lobbying activities in a bid to win stronger support for its bid to join UN agencies, if not the UN itself, to consolidate its international presence in the face of a mounting diplomatic squeeze from Beijing.

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Taipei Foreign Minister Joseph Wu has also been busy writing letters to various global news media to complain about mounting pressure from China and highlighting the island’s efforts in global development, while also calling for world support of its meaningful participation in UN agencies.

Arthur Ding, director of the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University, said the timing was optimal for Taiwan to promote its UN bid, given growing international concerns about China’s economic and military rise in the region.

“But the chance for the UN to readmit Taiwan is slim, as Western countries are still concerned about the consequences of serious conflict with Beijing if they openly support us at the General Assembly,” he said.

Ding added this explained why the island’s government chose not to call for other countries to initiate any agenda for a UN bid and instead asked for their support of Taiwan’s meaningful participation in UN agencies.

Regardless of the chance of success, Taiwan’s promotion of its UN bid at this time could help increase the island’s international visibility and gain greater sympathy after losing five allies in two years due to Beijing’s diplomatic offensive to win over the island’s allies, Ding said.