In a recent discussion in The Interpreter of whether it would be legal to come to the defence of Taiwan, Ben Saul concludes that “a betting person might be tempted to back the more conventional legal answers favouring China”. This misrepresents how the creative use of international law underpins the diplomacy that has maintained peace and stability since the 1970s, in accord with Article 1 of the United Nations Charter.To say that it is “uncertain and controversial” to treat Taiwan as “a stabilised ‘de facto’ state which enjoys a comparable right to self-defence as an actual state, including collective self-defence by its allies”, diverts attention from an ambiguity over the relationship between diplomatic recognition and statehood that has been argued over for centuries.
It is …