There was never any doubt about the outcome of Taiwan's bid to regain a seat in the United Nations. For the 15th time in as many years, the U.N. rejected Taipei's call to return to the world body. The application did not even make it to the General Assembly agenda, having been blocked by the General Assembly's General Committee amid adamant opposition from China.

Beijing insists that the island is a part of the "one China" and Taipei's efforts to claim a seat at the U.N. are part of a campaign to promote independence. That may be true, at least as far as Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian and his backers are concerned, but the sentiments behind the U.N. bid do reflect the Taiwan people's deep-seated yearning for respect and the assertion of their identity as Taiwanese. To confuse those aspirations with partisan politics will compound tensions.

Taiwan left the U.N. in 1971, when the People's Republic of China was awarded the "China" seat. As both Beijing and Taipei each insisted that it was the rightful government of a single China, Taiwan withdrew from the world body rather than try to claim a separate seat of its own. While Beijing sticks to the one-China principle — and demands that it be honored by all countries with which it has diplomatic relations — Taiwan's politics have evolved. Today, a growing number of Taiwanese think of themselves as fundamentally different from Chinese and demand recognition of that fact.