Seanad debates

Wednesday, 23 March 2005

Foreign Conflicts.


7:00 pm

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)

I thank the Cathaoirleach for including this matter on the Adjournment. I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Treacy. As this matter is more relevant to his brief than that raised by Senator O'Toole, I am pleased he is present.

In recent weeks, China, through the 10th PRC National People's Congress, passed what is known as the anti-separation law. This law presents unification as the only valid option in cross-straits relations between the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China.

The law would also enforce legal responsibility and possible punishment for actions perceived as promoting independence, as well as guidelines for the treatment of "separatists" before, during and after the potential use of force against Taiwan. These regulations would apply to citizens, enterprises, organisations and Government officials in China and Taiwan. The law can be seen as an enabling act of legalising war, authorising the People's Liberation Army, armed police and militia to resolve the "Taiwan problem" through non-peaceful measures. At the same time, the law will again declare the "Taiwan problem" as an internal affair and state that no external force should interfere in the Taiwan Strait. The passage of this law will have a severe impact not only on cross-straits relations but also on the stability of the entire region.

I fully support the Government's position on the One China policy. I have no doubt the Minister of State will refer to the latter. This is not about impacting or infringing on that policy in any way. However, it is somewhat ironic, in the month the National People's Congress passed the law legalising war, that Ireland is publicly identifying itself with a growing consensus among the EU partners towards ending the embargo on arms sales to China. This is in a country that has a proud record on human rights.

I understand that, in terms of politics involving larger powers and at international level, Ireland is a small player and punches way above its weight. I am also acutely aware that Ireland has an open trading economy and that China, because of its vast size and huge population, will be the real power in the 21st century and beyond. It is right and proper that Ireland should position itself to pursue bilateral relations with China. That is not what this matter is about. It is about highlighting a situation that has existed because of an historical anomaly.

Despite its international isolation and lack of recognition among practically all the developed countries of the world, we should acknowledge the existence of Taiwan. There are 23 million people on the island of Taiwan. It is the tenth largest trading nation in the world and, in the political sense, it is treated like an international pariah. That is a result of the historical reality and I emphasise that is not what this matter is about.

I would like Ireland to be seen to have a position on this law. I would like the Taoiseach and his ministerial colleagues, including the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, in bilateral negotiations, dialogue and discussions with the Republic of China, here at home through its ambassador, or in Beijing. This issue should join the others in respect of which we engage in dialogue. Those other issues primarily relate to human rights violations in China. I wish to see the Taiwan issue, in the context of the passage of the law to which I refer, put on that agendawhenever discussions take place at bilaterallevel.

The US, which would be the defence guarantor of Taiwan in the event of an attack by mainland China, has come out strongly against this law. I understand that Ministers were buttonholed and door-stepped by senior American politicians during their visits to the US for the annual St. Patrick's celebrations. It was conveyed to them that America is against this law. I can understand the reason for this. China is a growing military power. We are already aware of its economic might, from which we are benefiting to a large degree. However, cross-straits relations were beginning to get on to a proper footing and there had been a lessening of tension. In recent months, mainland China had allowed charter flights to operate across the strait and there was increasing optimism among the Taiwanese and the international community.

The Chinese authorities have tended to downplay this law and say it is nothing more than a reiteration of their legal right and that Taiwan is part of China. I plead with the Minister of State not to allow this issue slip off the agenda. If the Taiwanese have nobody to speak for them internationally, we, as parliamentarians, in defending a democratic Taiwan, as against a totalitarian China, have some responsibility to ensure its views are put forward whenever the occasion arises.


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