Welcome to the Club

October 13, 1991

It took the world 46 years of dealing with a divided Korea to come to a temporary, two-Korea policy. North Korea and South Korea were admitted to the United Nations by this year's 46th General Assembly. So were Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, bringing membership to 166. Only the last two do not belong.

The end of the Cold War elsewhere made the Korea solution possible. The two-Germanys deal of 1973 provided the model. Many people lamented when the Federal Republic and Democratic Republic of Germany both joined the U.N. that year. They feared acceptance of the permanent division of Germany. In hindsight, it meant no such thing.

Few can doubt that this is the model for South Korea's inevitable absorption of the smaller, impoverished, tyrannized North. Meanwhile, adjoining seats in New York can promote low-key human unification. What this joint membership suggests is a similar temporary two-China policy for the U.N., presently unthinkble. The U.S. and most countries succumbed to Beijing's insistence on recognizing only one China. Both China regimes agree there is only one, and that the other is illegitimate.

But while the world's most populous country, mainland China, is moribund, the Republic of China on Taiwan has 20 million people and the world's most robust economy, much of it investing in the bigger China for cheap labor and material. It is one of the most successful countries going, and belongs in the U.N. a lot more than the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Both of those were picked up by the U.S. under U.N. trusteeship after World War II. They won sovereign independence with continued defense and economic dependency in 1986. Now they have joined the world body to gain respect. That does not make them real nations in the sense that Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia undoubtedly are.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands has 40,000 people speaking four languages on 70 square miles, including Bikini and Eniwetok atolls, where the U.S. exploded 66 nuclear bombs from 1947 until 1958, and Kwajalein, which the U.S. still hits monthly with dud missiles fired in California. The other prop to the economy is the import of trash from the U.S. West Coast, in hopes of filling-in lagoons to better accommodate people living in squalid slums. Some country.

The Federated States of Micronesia, with 109,000 people speaking 6 languages on 607 far-flung islands in four states totaling 271 square miles, is slightly more credible. The world agrees that both are nations, and that Taiwan is not.

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