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The Cairo Declaration, 65 years on

October 17, 2008

By Jerome Keating
Taipei Times (Taiwan)
October 16, 2008

The 65th anniversary of the Cairo Declaration (Dec. 1, 1943)
approaches and I have always wondered at its rhetoric as well as how
often this simple declaration is used by some to justify China's
claim to Taiwan, which was called Formosa at the time.

Let us grant that the declaration was made in wartime, and that it
would require rhetorical wording to rally the troops to the
righteousness of a cause. Granted, it was a statement and not a
treaty. It had no legal force; there were no binding commitments. It
was also made at a time when, although the darkest hour of the war
was past, there was much more to come. For some, the concern that
Chiang Kai-shek (???) might sign a private peace treaty with Japan
and opt out of the war remained. Look past that, however, and focus
on one simple, neglected aspect: the rhetoric involved and the
problems that arose from this.

The declaration states: "The three great Allies are fighting this war
to restrain and punish the aggression of Japan. They covet no gain
for themselves and have no thought of territorial expansion. It is
their purpose that Japan shall be stripped of all the islands in the
Pacific which she has seized or occupied since the beginning of the
First World War in 1914, and that all the territories Japan has
stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa and the
Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China."

A quick check reveals that Japan secured Formosa in the legitimate
Treaty of Shimonoseki (1895) at the end of a war with the Qing
Dynasty. It was a war that both countries entered because each wanted
a controlling influence in Korea. The primary issue in 1895 was
control over Korea; Formosa was given away to keep Korea free. The
Republic of China was not yet formed, nor the People's Republic of China.

Questions arise from this. Did Japan actually steal Formosa? Do all
treaties represent or involve stealing? If so, who did Japan steal
Formosa from? Did it steal Formosa from the Chinese or was it the
Manchu Qing Dynasty that had conquered China as well as Manchuria,
Tibet and parts of Formosa? Did the Chinese ever own Formosa? Who
were the Chinese on Formosa?

Certainly there were Chinese people that had come to Formosa, but
many of them, aside from Qing bureaucrats, came illegally to escape
their lives under the Qing. In addition, no country had controlled
the whole island of Taiwan before the Japanese.

The western half of Taiwan was governed by the Qing and that half
became a province in 1885 — 10 years before the 1895 treaty — but the
other half was Aboriginal territory. The Qing surely had designs on
the lands of those "uncooked savages" and acquiring that land would
clearly be stealing.

Even on the land governed by the Qing, history records a tenuous rule
there with an uprising every three years and a rebellion every five.
In the treaty of 1895, the Qing government was getting rid of its
troublesome half of the island. The remaining land was not the Qing
government's to give. It didn't mind Japan "stealing" it.

The Cairo Declaration has additional nebulous aspects; unfortunately
in all of this no one ever asked the Taiwanese and Aborigines what
they wanted. Even if one thinks that US President Franklin D.
Roosevelt was trying to do the right thing, one needs only to look at
the Tehran Conference immediately following, when Roosevelt agreed to
let Stalin redraw the borders of Poland so that he could "steal" some
Polish territory.

Wartime rhetoric yes, but more than a half century has passed. The
Treaty of San Francisco never stated who Japan should give Taiwan to.

A faint ray of hope appears when you force the US government into a
corner and ask what the status of Taiwan is: The answer is that it is
still "undecided." Even the "one China" mantra that the US State
Department constantly trots out simply means the US acknowledges that
China thinks it owns Taiwan.

But that mantra leaves unsaid that the official US position is that
Taiwan's fate is undecided.

Undecided? Isn't it time to end this circuitous rhetoric? Here we
are, some 63 years after the end of World War II, and the fate of 23
million people in a thriving, hard-won democracy is still
"undecided." Ironically, after that war, the UN charter states that
all people have the right to self-determination. All, that is, except
23 million Taiwanese.

One can excuse the rhetoric of the Cairo Declaration as a result of
the circumstances. But now it is time to see it for what it was and
to right its results. It is a great shame for the US and the rest of
the world community not to recognize Taiwan's right to
self-determination. It is also time to recognize that the real greed
and threat to stability in the Taiwan Strait is from China, and not
the freedom-loving people of Taiwan. It is time to give Taiwan a
place in the UN — not in the kow-towing, mealy mouthed, fawning
approach of the Ma Ying-jeou (???) government, but in the simple
straight-forward recognition that free people deserve the recognition
of their freedom and their land.

If there is anyone that wants to steal Taiwan from its people, it is
the PRC. Taiwan belongs to the Taiwanese. Taiwan is Taiwan, China is
China. That is not rhetoric, that's fact. It is time the world
acknowledges this.
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