Go TO Content

President Chen's Address for the Video Conference with the New York Press Corps

  • Date:2004-09-15

September 15, 2004

Mr. Jenkins, friends from the New York press corps, ambassadors of Taiwan's allied nations to the United Nations, ladies and gentlemen:

Greetings to you all!

I am very pleased, on the second day of the convening of the 59th United Nations General Assembly, to be able to send you my greetings via video conference.

I remember that a little more than ten years ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit the UN headquarters. I will never forget that when the UN staff saw that my wife was handicapped and confined to a wheelchair, they immediately made arrangements to prioritize our tour in a show of respect for the disabled and disadvantaged. That experience also left me with a deep admiration for the principles expressed in the first chapter of the Charter of the United Nations, that is, "to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace."

Peace, respect, equality, and amity are the core values on which the United Nations was established. They are also important assets, which has enabled the United Nations to sustain world and human civilization from the time of its founding to today. As a member of the international community, Taiwan has faithfully performed all duties and responsibilities set forth by the United Nations. We also play an indispensable role in such areas as the global economy and trade, peacekeeping efforts, humanitarian relief, and even the consolidation of democracy.

A free and democratic country like Taiwan deserves to be treated properly and with respect by the international community. Unfortunately, this was not the case last year, when Asia was hit by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) originating from China, and the people of Taiwan had to face the epidemic without the timely attention of the international medical system. Even when Taiwan included this delayed attention as a reason behind our bid for observer status in the World Health Assembly, Chinese officials responded with senselessness and discrimination, retorting: "Who cares about you?" 

A free and democratic country like Taiwan should not be the "missing piece" in the United Nations' Principle of Universality. Taiwan's absence in the United Nations has left its 23 million people without an internationally acknowledged identity and has turned them into international vagabonds, victims of political apartheid.

Distinguished guests and friends from the press, the United Nations General Assembly is currently in session. On August 10, the representatives of 15 of Taiwan's diplomatic allies jointly submitted a motion for Taiwan's participation in the United Nations to the secretary-general. The motion asks that the UN General Assembly acknowledge the right of Taiwan's 23 million people to representation in the UN system and adopt appropriate measures to realize this right.

I would like to emphasize here that General Assembly Resolution 2758 dealt only with the People's Republic of China's right to representation in the UN and its subsidiary organizations; it did not grant the PRC the right to represent the people of Taiwan in the UN and its subsidiary organizations. Taiwan is Taiwan. Taiwan cannot and will not fight for the right to represent "China." Taiwan is a land of 36,000 square kilometers, and it deserves representation for the 23 million people who live here.

Regrettably, Resolution 2758 is wrongly interpreted to justify Taiwan's exclusion from the UN family and thus deprive the basic rights of Taiwan's 23 million people to take part in UN efforts and activities. This exclusion is a clear violation of both the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other international human rights principles. Moreover, it represents a great irony for the United Nations' Principle of Universality.

Taiwan today has a fully capable government and a pluralistic and democratic political system that safeguards human rights. Per capita income has reached US$14,000. Foreign exchange reserves have also exceeded US$230 billion. It is the world's 15th largest trading nation and conducts effective relations with other members of the international community. Taiwan maintains formal diplomatic relations with 25 UN member states. It is also a member of numerous international bodies, including the World Trade Organization.

Taiwan has been active in making constructive contributions to the maintenance of global peace and world order. From countering international terrorism to providing humanitarian relief, from the pursuit of reconciliation across the Taiwan Strait to the promotion of stability in the Asia-Pacific region, Taiwan's efforts have been witnessed by the international community. At the end of August, I made a point of visiting Pearl Harbor during my stopover in Hawaii. Prior to this visit, I announced the cancellation of the September 9 Han Guang military exercise in order to convey a friendly message for peace in the Taiwan Strait.

The historical lesson of Pearl Harbor inspires profound and serious reflection on war and peace. It is indeed necessary for a democratic country to maintain basic defense capabilities. For Taiwan, which faces a clear and constant military threat from a non-democratic country, the need to strengthen our defense capabilities is especially urgent. I have always believed, however, that peace offers the best path towards sustainable development for mankind, and democracy is the only road that leads to peace and stability.

I solemnly declared in my second inaugural speech on May 20 of this year that I will invite the governing and opposition parties in this country to join with representatives from all sectors of society to establish a Committee for Cross-strait Peace and Development. Together, we will draft the Guidelines for Cross-strait Peace and Development, and pave the way for a new relationship of cross-strait peace, stability and sustainable development. Should it accept Taiwan, the United Nations would certainly provide a most effective international monitoring mechanism for the development of a framework for peace and stability between the two sides of the strait. Indeed, it would be able to exercise decisive influence on peace in the Taiwan Strait and the security of the Asia-Pacific region.

I would like to remind the Beijing authorities that Taiwan's pursuit of UN participation does not challenge the PRC's place in the United Nations. Beijing must understand that prior to the unification of Germany, both East and West had UN membership. In Korea, both North and South are presently UN members, and this does not hinder their pursuit of unification on the Korean peninsula.

Therefore, the persistent obstruction of Taiwan's participation in the international community only serves to further alienate Taiwan from China, and causes rancor on both sides. This by no means benefits the normalization of cross-strait relations. Taiwan has once again extended an olive branch of peace, and it is my sincere hope that the other members of the UN will acknowledge the legitimacy and strong aspirations of Taiwan's 23 million people in seeking to join the UN, and support in the General Assembly this year the motion for Taiwan's participation in the UN. 

In the recently concluded Athens Olympic Games, Taiwan's athletes made history by winning two gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze. For a country as small as Taiwan to rank 31st among participating nations in terms of gold medals is remarkable and exceptional. However, limited by international politics, we are forced to use the name Chinese Taipei at all related events instead of our official title of the Republic of China, or Taiwan. That a gold medallist from Taiwan is forbidden to sing his national anthem and salute his national flag is both sad and regrettable. If only the nations of the world could put themselves in Taiwan's place. I wish they could understand the situation of the Taiwanese people, and give us their staunchest support.

In closing, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to President Jenkins and all of our friends there from the media. This opportunity for me, as the incumbent president re-elected by popular vote in Taiwan, to speak out to the world symbolizes the unwavering resolve of democratic Taiwan to participate in the United Nations and international affairs. I hope that I will have the chance to meet you at the United Nations. I further wish that, through the arrangements of the United Nations Correspondents Association, I can engage in a public debate on the issue of Taiwan's participation in the United Nations with the Chinese leader Hu Jintao.

I believe that my remarks cover most of Mr. Jenkins's questions, and I would be happy to take further questions. Thank you.

Q1. In the United Nations, it is given that the legal status of Taiwan is settled, in other words, that you are a part of China, the United Nations accepts the principle that peoples can secede from the nation to which they belong if they did it on a peaceful basis. That was how Slovakia split up from Czechoslovakia. Therefore, the analysts here, diplomats here, say that it would be okay for Taiwan to become independent, but that has to be negotiated with Beijing. And to bring the issue here to New York serves no purpose other than to antagonize Beijing, to make the tensions across the Strait worse, and to heighten some sort of military tension. How do you respond to these criticisms? [Tony Jenkins, Expresso] 

A: Thank you, Mr. Jenkins, for posing your question again. As I said in my opening remarks, Resolution 2758 of the UN General Assembly did not give the PRC the right to represent Taiwan in the United Nations and its subsidiary organizations. This point is clear. Secondly, we believe that our quest to join the UN is not aimed at provoking China. We are not seeking to represent China in the UN. Instead, Taiwan is Taiwan. And we are hoping that the aspirations of the 23 million people of Taiwan to participate in international organizations can be taken seriously by the United Nations, which upholds the principle of universality. 

As I mentioned, during the SARS epidemic last year, many people, many individuals were quarantined. We hope that the 23 million people of Taiwan are not politically quarantined or isolated from participation in the UN. 

Of course, it would be simplest to resolve the issue of Taiwan's participation in the UN between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. But we believe that this issue is not only an issue involving the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. It is an important international issue. 

I have just quoted Chapter I of the United Nations Charter, highlighting the principles of universality and equality. The aspirations of the 23 million people of Taiwan and their hope from the bottom of their hearts must not be ignored by the international community. 

With the exception of the Vatican, all nations that want to join the United Nations have the right to join. Only Taiwan is an exception and excluded. This is extremely unfair. 

Q2. President Chen, you mentioned the example of the two Germanys and the two Koreas, and also the example of the two Yemens. Do you consider that United Nations membership for Taiwan would preclude in any way future discussions about reunification, if that's what the people on both sides were to desire? Thank you. [Ian G. Williams, The Nation] 

A: That is precisely the reason why I have utilized the examples of the two Germanys and the two Koreas. Their simultaneous participation in the United Nations did not affect eventual unification. Both East and West Germany were members of the United Nations before we saw a unified Germany. Their separate memberships did not prevent the unification, and the same applies to the Korean Peninsula. Both North and South Korea are in the United Nations and this does not affect their quest for the unification of the Korean Peninsula. 

In my May 20th reelection inaugural speech this year, I mentioned that the 23 million people of Taiwan, including myself, can understand why the Beijing authorities have to persist in the principle of one China due to historical sentiments. We can fully understand their feelings. But why can't the Chinese turn around and understand the Taiwanese people's aspiration to join the international community? We hope to see some mutual understanding. 

I also mentioned in my inaugural speech that, as long as the people of Taiwan agree, we would not rule out any possibility of a kind of relationship between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait in the future. We believe that with Taiwan's participation, the United Nations can become the best platform for peace and development across the Taiwan Strait. The UN platform will bring the two sides closer, not further apart. 

Q3. Mr. President, to follow up on Mr. Jenkins' question about negotiation with China-China doesn't recognize you, doesn't think you have the right to exist as a nation-is there any political incentive for China to negotiate anything with you, including joining the UN, or any other question like that? [Benni Avni, The New York Sun] 

A: We cannot imagine in a democratic country like the United States, where the freedom of speech and the freedom of press are respected a hundred percent, that when a democratic leader, who wants to speak to other democratic countries on behalf of his 23 million citizens, has to be prevented and hindered. 

There are many things that are hard for us to imagine. For example, that in such a pluralistic and diverse country when the leader of Taiwan wishes to address a free press in New York City, for example to an audience of the UN Correspondents Association in the UN Headquarters why China has to engage in such oppressive behavior. Only undemocratic, dictatorial, and authoritarian countries would seek to deprive the right of others to speak. The Beijing leadership can refuse to accept the content of my speech, however, they cannot deprive me of the right to speak. 

I believe that the issue of Taiwan's participation in the United Nations is not Taiwan's own issue; it is not an internal issue across the Taiwan Strait. Rather, it is an important international issue worthy of attention. 

That is why I sincerely hope that the UN Correspondents Association can arrange or provide an opportunity for me to publicly debate this issue with China's leader Hu Jintao. 

Q4. Tony, this is for you, and the President can add to it. What threats of cutting off power and electricity have come from China, as the President just mentioned? If either of you has any information, we would love to know. Also the GA resolution, Mr. President, doesn't say that China should represent Taiwan. But it does say that Taiwan, then under Chiang Kai-shek, had to leave all UN agencies, which is that interpretation that the UN is using. [Evelyn Leopold, Reuters] 

A: Even though there are many regrets over not being able to hold this video conference in the UN headquarters due to pressure. However, the fact that we can hold this video conference outside the UN and that I am given this opportunity to speak on behalf of the Taiwanese people. For this, I am truly grateful to have this opportunity to speak to you outside the UN headquarters on free and democratic US soil. 

And again, I want to reiterate that the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758 did not deal with the question of China's right to represent Taiwan's 23 million people. And I bring up this important question, hoping that we do not continue to see Beijing's distortion of this resolution. 

We do not hope to see the Beijing authorities using fists to pressure us, threaten us, and ignore our presence. That is why I am calling for a public debate on this issue. I believe that the truth will prevail. 

Q5. Mr. President, I have a question indirectly related to this press conference: Several days ago in Athens, the First Lady of Taiwan was issued a "highest VIP card" by the International Paralympics Committee, which was then cancelled. Do you think that event has anything in common with this particular press conference? And do you think you can do anything to prevent that from happening again? Do you feel frustrated? [Tony Lin, Chinese Television System] 

A: China's suppression, boycotting and hampering of Taiwan are ever present. Taiwan suffered from Beijing's suppression even as we battled the SARS epidemic. Now, my wife did nothing more than lead our national team to the Paralympics to support and encourage our nation's athletes, but even this is subject to the same pressure. Why is it that China is not willing to spare even sports, athletics and the disabled? 

My wife, Wu Shu-jen, prior to leaving Taiwan, was issued an NPC (national Paralympic committee) card by the International Paralympics Committee in line with the appropriate procedures. I have no doubt that this is true. It clearly says here on this card that my wife, Wu Shu-jen, is the leader of the national team from Chinese Taipei. 

I also have here in my hand an invitation letter, dated November 10 of last year. This is a letter from the International Paralympics Committee to my wife, clearly addressed to her as the ROC First Lady. They are aware of her position, that she is the wife of the president, and they invited her to attend the Paralympic Games. The letter mentions that if there were a high government official leading the delegation, it would help raise the visibility of the disabled athletes as well as promote concern and understanding for the disabled within society. 

However, we regret that upon my wife's arrival in Athens, the IPC took away what they had previously granted. The reason, according to our understanding, is Chinese pressure. The IPC now says that the leader of the national team to the Paralympic Games has to be the president or the secretary-general of the local Paralympics committee, and my wife, as honorary chairwoman of the committee here in Taiwan, is not qualified. 

Looking at the Athens Olympic Games, however, we see that the leader of the US delegation was respected former president George Bush, though he is clearly not the chairman of the US Olympic Committee, nor is he the secretary-general. And at this year's Paralympic Games, the leaders of the teams from Australia and New Zealand, for example, are not the chairmen, presidents, or secretaries general of their home Paralympic committees. So this is clearly a targeted, discretionary action taken to suppress Taiwan. 

As all know, my wife is paralyzed from the waist down. She has been in a wheel chair for the past 20 years. If someone in her position is not qualified to lead the delegation, then who is? We deeply regret that the IPC has bowed to Chinese pressure to oppress Taiwan and discriminate against the disabled. 

Q6. You've spoken very comprehensively about what you think UN membership for Taiwan might be able to achieve in terms of relations with the mainland and in terms of other crises like SARS. I wonder what you think UN membership for Taiwan might be able to achieve in terms of other regional issues, such as the nuclear issue with North Korea and other crises that directly affect the region. Thank you. [Marc Carnegie, Agence France-Presse] 

A: I believe that if Taiwan can become a member of the United Nations, we can make the greatest contribution to regional peace, security, and stability. We are very concerned about the Korean peninsula issue and the North Korean nuclear crisis. However, North Korea is a member of the United Nations, and currently there is a six-party talk on this particular issue. On the South China Sea issues, all the ASEAN member states along with the United States, Japan, and China are concerned and involved in the dialogue. In terms of the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan is key to the peace, security, and stability of this region. However, Taiwan cannot be absent in the dialogue to resolve this issue and to create stability and security in this region. All parties around this region, including the US and Japan, are concerned about the peaceful resolution of the cross-strait issue. They also encourage and would like to see peaceful dialogue to resolve this issue. In the resolution of any issue, the two sides involved have to be on equal footing. This is an important principle. Taiwan is one side of the two sides across the Taiwan Strait, and we must be treated fairly. I believe that if Taiwan can become a member of the UN, under UN monitoring mechanisms, then the cross-strait issue can be resolved peacefully. Thank you. 

Q7. Mr. Chen, you speak repeatedly and ask for dialogue with Beijing leaders, right? But we had a dialogue in 1992, and we all understand why at that time we could have a dialogue. Do you think that we can return to the basis of 1992 and resume the dialogue? Also, you mentioned the two Germanys and two Koreas. It's very clear that both Germanys and both Koreas pursued unification, and they admit that they are one nation and one people. Do you think that now you still pursue the unification of the two sides? And do you still admit that the people on both sides are one people? [He Hongze, People's Daily] 

A: We believe that both sides across the strait must engage in dialogue on the existing foundation. The 1992 consensus was mentioned. I do not believe that there was a consensus in 1992. However, there was a dialogue in 1992. This is the truth. In 1992, there was a cross-strait dialogue. This was a very good experience. With or without a consensus on both sides, everyone was able to sit down and talk. We all hope to be able to use this model to solve cross-strait discrimination. But I want to emphasize that even without a consensus in 1992, there was an existing foundation, and we hope that this foundation can also provide for the resumption of dialogue. At the end of August, I transited through Hawaii and visited Pearl Harbor. There I mentioned that 59 years ago, the US and Japan were at war with each other, but today they are the best of friends and partners. If even enemies can become friends, then do the people on both sides of the strait, sharing a common cultural and ethnic background, really want to be enemies? We hope that across the Taiwan Strait we can establish a peace and stability framework for interaction, and we hope to build consensus in Taiwan to establish guidelines for cross-strait peace and development. Across the Taiwan Strait we want not only peace but also development. I especially mentioned in my May 20 inaugural speech that as long as the 23 million people of Taiwan agree, we will not rule out any possibility in seeking to establish relations in any form whatsoever. 

Q8. A question regarding the support of our countries for Taiwan to be part of the UN: It has been said in the past that Taiwan's offers political support rather than economic aid, and there have also been some scandal issues about international administration of debt money in our countries. Does Taiwan plan to give economic aid instead of political support to gain other countries to support Taiwan for the UN? [Patricia Ugalde, Grupo Nacion] 

A: Costa Rica is an important ally of Taiwan and we are grateful for the support and friendship expressed by the government and people of Costa Rica to the 23 million people of Taiwan. We firmly believe that the diplomatic relationship between Taiwan and Costa Rica is not based only on financial and economic cooperation, but rather on our shared values of democracy, freedom, human rights, peace and other universal principles. 

Taiwan was once a recipient of foreign aid and now that we are capable we must contribute and repay to the international community and play out our responsibilities. So to our friends and allied nations such as Costa Rica, we are concerned about the welfare of the people and the economic infrastructure of the country, and if there is anything that Taiwan's people or government can do, we are always willing. 

【Source: Office of the President】