06/01/2020 No. 156
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Gaining Insight on Foreign Relations from the Perspectives of Taiwan and the Diaoyu Islands
By Ligong Yu Translator Sheng-Wei Wang
November 1, 2010

On September 18 this year, the author mentioned in the article entitled "Reviewing the Past, Look into the Future from the Diaoyu Islands" that the United States, after the attack by Japan in 1941 and in order to encourage China to intensify the war against the Japanese aggression, planned the Cairo Declaration (at the end of 1943) that aimed at safeguarding the interests of China. A year later, to gain the Soviet Union’s support of an attack on Japan, the United States signed the Yalta Agreements (in February 1945) with Stalin; the Agreements betrayed China’s interests in its Northeast territory and Mongolia. After winning the war against the Japanese aggression, in order to implement the policy of containment, the United States on the one hand blockaded the Taiwan (Formosa) Strait to directly intervene in China's internal affairs by military means and on the other hand supported the defeated Japan by stopping the investigation of its war crime liabilities. At the same time, through approving the San Francisco Peace Treaty the US concocted the so-called “Undetermined Status of Taiwan” with the intent to split Taiwan from China forever.


In fact, this is merely a brief outline of Taiwan's ownership issue. The actual situation has far more twists and turns.


On August 12, 1945, the United States President Harry S. Truman issued an order that appointed General of the Army Douglas MacArthur as the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers to accept the Japanese surrender. Two weeks later, namely on September 2, 1945, MacArthur, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers issued his General Order No. 1 on the same day right after the Emperor of Japan signed the surrender document. Article 1 of the document stated: “a. The senior Japanese commanders and all ground, sea, air and auxiliary forces within China (excluding Manchuria), Formosa and French Indo-China north of 16 north latitude shall surrender to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek”. Article 12 also specified that "This and all subsequent instructions issued by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers or other allied military authorities will be scrupulously and promptly obeyed by Japanese and Japanese-controlled military and civil officials and private persons. Any delay or failure to comply with the provisions of this or subsequent orders and any action which the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers determines to be detrimental to the Allied Powers, will incur drastic and summary punishment at the hands of allied military authorities and the Japanese Government”.


Two points are worth noting in this command: First, Chiang Kai-shek was named the Supreme Commander of Allied forces in the China theatre; this identity was derived from the de facto recognition of the preparatory countries (the United States, Britain, Netherlands, etc.) of the United Nations (UN) on January 2, 1942, instead of MacArthur’s authorization; second, the "north of 16 north latitude" provision included North Vietnam, Hong Kong and the large areas all the way to Taiwan.


The Republic of China (ROC) Government recovered Taiwan on October 25, 1945, under the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Declaration.* After that, starting from August 1946 the British authorities surprisingly demurred constantly on the ownership of Taiwan's territorial sovereignty. Britain's position was nothing more than: 1) The two declarations only represented the intention of the contracting parties; they themselves could not transfer the sovereignty of Taiwan from Japan to China, but this should wait until after the signing of a peace treaty with Japan or other formal diplomatic formalities (see file data of the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs); 2) the British government legally recognized Communist China as the legitimate government of China; Taiwan was legally Japanese territory until the present time, there was no so-called Taiwan Government; the then Chinese Government obtained the right of temporary governance of Taiwan after the Japanese surrender through the consent of the other allies, but a peace treaty would be required to make the final decision on its status (British Foreign Ministry official Kenneth Younger issued a written statement on July 26, 1950, which was published by The Times of London on July 28); 3) “In September 1945, the administration of Formosa was taken over from the Japanese by Chinese forces at the direction of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers; but this was not a cession, nor did it in itself involve any change of sovereignty. The arrangements made with Chiang Kai-Shek put him there on a basis of military occupation pending future arrangements, and did not of themselves constitute the territory Chinese… Under the peace treaty of April 1952, Japan formally renounced all right, title and claim to Formosa and the Pescadores; but again this did not operate as a transfer to Chinese sovereignty, whether to the People’s Republic of China or the Chinese Nationalist authorities. Formosa and the Pescadores are therefore, in the view of her Majesty’s Government, territory the de jure sovereignty over which is uncertain or undetermined” (British Foreign Secretary Robert Anthony Eden, in a written reply to Mr. Shinwell on the present legal status of Formosa in the British House of Commons which was published on The Times of London on February 5, 1955).


The British government was ridiculous, not only because it challenged the ownership of Taiwan immediately after the Japanese surrender, nor because it was the actual creator of a bad precedent that in 1950 cooked up the “Undetermined Status of Taiwan”. But rather, while it denied the rudimentary political ethics and the principle of reverting the island to its rightful owner China, it was also trying to think up every possible method to restore Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories as its innate territory even though it gave up resistance there only two weeks after the Japanese attack at the end of 1941. The specific method it used was channeling with the United States to make MacArthur designate the British force as the surrender authority on August 27, 1945. At this time, the British stopped talking about “The military occupation is only a US temporary measure"; of course, it dared even less to mention the joint statement to the Chinese Government made by the United States Government and the British Government on October 9, 1942, in which they claimed to be willing to immediately give up extraterritoriality and other relevant rights and interests in China and other issues affecting China's sovereignty.


As for the United States, during the war against the Japanese aggression the actual assistance to China was far less than what the US had promised. At the same time the United States also joined Britain and the Soviet Union to sell out China's interests during the Yalta Conference in 1945. But concerning the issue of China's resumption of the sovereignty of Taiwan's territory, the United States waited until 1949 when the Chinese Communists swept the whole of China, then decided to quietly support a local government on Taiwan so that it could break free from China. However, since Chen Cheng and Sun Li-jen were unwilling to betray Chiang Kai-shek, and also subsequently Chiang Kai-shek was able to effectively move the government to Taiwan and rule Taiwan, President Truman then was compelled to declare on January 5, 1950, in a statement concerning the Taiwan issue, that the United States and other Allied Powers had accepted the exercise of Chinese [referring to the Republic of China] authority over the island.


Shortly after Truman made the announcement, on June 25 of the same year the Korean War broke out. In order to find a legal basis for sending the US Seventh Fleet to patrol the Taiwan Strait and simultaneously to avoid being accused of interfering in China's internal affairs, he then issued a statement on June 27 to declare that “Regarding confirmation of Taiwan’s status…it should not be decided until after peace and stability are restored in the region, or until after a peace treaty is signed with Japan, or until the United Nations reaches a decision on the subject.” As a result of this strategy, in September 1951, thirteen countries including the United States and Britain signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan, which only required the Japanese giving up Taiwan and the Penghu Islands, while deliberately avoiding any attribution stipulations for Taiwan and Penghu.


In this regard, the main preparer behind the San Francisco Peace Treaty, the then US Assistant Secretary of State Dean Rusk, later in his memoirs admitted that according to international acts this was manufacturing a “false treaty” and it had absolutely no legitimacy; concocting these procedural rules was even imperious. In thinking of his own role in these meetings and strategies, he felt ashamed!


In early 1952, Chiang Kai-shek and Japan signed the Treaty of Peace between the Republic of China and Japan, which had similar content as the San Francisco Peace Treaty. The Nationalist Government under Chiang Kai-shek accommodated the United States, of course, on the one hand by seeking the protection of the United States, and on the other hand by striving to gain Japan’s recognition of the Taipei Government as the Central Government.


The Nationalist Government under Chiang Kai-shek certainly could not deny that it strived for the interests of political power at the expense of national sovereignty, but this act was not entirely devoid of any merit as criticized by the public opinion. Taking the Treaty of Peace between the Republic of China and Japan as an example, Article IV stipulated that "It is recognized that all treaties, conventions and agreements concluded before December 9, 1941, between Japan and China have become null and void as a consequence of the war”. (The island of Taiwan, together with all islands appertaining or belonging to Formosa, was ceded from China to Japan by the Treaty of Shimonoseki of 1895).


In view of this, the Nationalist Government, even though it dared not launch a direct challenge against the undetermined status of Taiwan, did not forget to indirectly point out that since the Treaty of Shimonoseki had become null and void, Taiwan had always been an integral part of China.


From another perspective, we can see that the Nationalist Government has always been deeply concerned with the undetermined status of Taiwan. In 1954, since the United States urgently wanted to include Taiwan into the anti-communist military alliance of the West Pacific, it suddenly raised the status of the Taipei Government correspondingly. As a result, Taiwan officially signed the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States of America and the Republic of China in 1954 and joined the world camp containing communism. Then Taiwan also limited its own military activities to the territory of Taiwan, Penghu (the Pescadores), Kinmen (Quemoy) and Matsu, and became the guardian of the strategic layout of the Western Pacific. Through bargaining, the Taipei Government also highly commendably secured the international recognition of Article VI of the Treaty; namely "the terms territorial and territories shall mean in respect of the Republic of China, Taiwan and the Pescadores”. In other words, at least, the United States officially recognizes the territorial sovereignty of the Republic of China covers Taiwan and the Pescadores". [Note 1]


In addition, the content of a provision that was relatively less known involved the Taiwan authorities giving certain rights to the United States. According to Article VII of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States of America and the Republic of China: “The Government of the Republic of China grants, and the Government of the United States of America accepts, the right to dispose such United States land, air and sea forces in and about Taiwan and the Pescadores as may be required for their defense, as determined by mutual agreement”. [Note 2]


In fact, at almost the same time as signing the treaty, the United States officially designated its military control and trustee territory over the Diaoyu Islands. [Note 3] Since then, in 1972 it further transferred administrative control, though not sovereignty, of both the Diaoyu Islands and the Ryukyu Islands to Japan. **


As previously revealed, Taiwan needed to rely on US protection. Therefore, it was originally a stopgap measure to put Taiwan, the Pescadores and the surrounding territories under the US protection. The problem was, the United States unilaterally took the Diaoyu Islands as a trustee territory and included it into the Ryukyu range. As a consequence, there appeared an embarrassing legal issue that the United States must face. Namely, under Article 78 of the UN Charter "The trusteeship system shall not apply to territories which have become Members of the United Nations, relationship among which shall be based on respect for the principle of sovereign equality". This means that the territory under the US protection authorized by the then UN Member State was regarded as a trust territory by the United States; this way of doing things was simply in conflict with the UN Charter. Therefore, unless the United States could present a very good reason to prove that the Diaoyu Islands had never belonged to China’s territorial jurisdiction, the Diaoyu Islands must be returned to the Taipei Government that was under the double protection of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States of America and the Republic of China, and the UN Charter.




The law of the jungle and the absence of diplomatic power for a weak country can be said to be the only path that China must take after it missed the train of the industrial revolution. Reading the history of being trampled in the previous one hundred years is undoubtedly shocking; nevertheless, it also conforms to the law of human history. What truly made people deeply grievous and bitterly resentful were the humiliation suffered by and games played upon China, one of the four world powers after the end of World War II.


Overviewing the development of the past sixty-five years, regardless of whether our contacts were previous allied forces, comrades-in-arms or enemies, and regardless of what condition the Chinese Government or state system was in, when central-local friction occurred, the so-called international forces always stood on the side of the separatists. And when a dispute between China and any foreign country occurred, it was always China that suffered the most isolation and grievance. After seeing through the fact that constraining China has been the unchanging rule of international forces, a countermeasure cannot help but suddenly clear the view; that is, there is no better choice than putting forward a persuasive and fair argument and pursuing strength.     2010/10/01


Note 1. "Both by act and by implication we (the author's note: US Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations) have accepted the Nationalist Government as the lawful authority on Formosa…”

Reference: "Research on the Legal Status of Taiwan," p.65, Author: Feng Tai, Li Ming Cultural Enterprise Co., Ltd., 1st edition, April 1985.




The Government of the Republic of China grants, and the Government of the United States of America accepts, the right to dispose such United States land, air and sea forces in and about Taiwan and the Pescadores as may be required for their defense, as determined by mutual agreement.


Note 3. The United States issued Civil Administration Proclamation No. 27 on December 25, 1953, an announcement related to the “Geographical Boundaries of the Ryukyu Islands”. The announcement said that “WHEREAS, in conformity with the terms of the Japanese Treaty of Peace, signed 8 September 1951… it is deemed necessary to redesignate the geographic boundaries of…the Ryukyu Islands… The territorial Jurisdiction of the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands… and the Government of the Ryukyu Islands are redesignated as all of those islands, islets, atolls and rocks and territorial waters within the following geographic boundaries…24 North Latitude, 122 East Latitude…; thence to the point of origin”.


* Note by Professor Li Tze-chung: The 1945 Potsdam Declaration provided that the terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we [United States, Great Britain, and China] determine. These terms were accepted by Japan in her Surrender Instrument of 1945.       


** Note by Professor Li Tze-chung: The transfer of control which caused the dispute is a clear violation of the Potsdam Declaration and peace treaty and a disappointing departure from US commitment.


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Professor Ligong Yu was born in Shanghai in 1947 and went from Taiwan to Europe and the United States at age 17. He has successively studied and performed research in politics and sociology at San Francisco State College, Vienna University, the Free University in West Berlin, Heidelberg University, and Frankfurt University. He is the president of the Chinese Writers Association in Europe and professor in International Politics. He resides in Vienna, Austria. Column: http://column.creaders.net/
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