Category Legal status
Sub-Category Undetermined
Question Can Taiwan’s legal status be changed to “determined” via the holding of a plebiscite?
Answer In the San Francisco Peace Treaty of April 28, 1952, Taiwan was not awarded to China, nor was it recognized as an independent entity. The “undetermined” legal status of Taiwan territory arises from these facts.

The holding of a plebiscite is not the appropriate legal method for determining sovereignty over a particular territorial area. Hence, a plebiscite cannot change Taiwan’s legal status from “undetermined” to “determined.”

It must be recognized that the Japanese surrender ceremonies of October 25th 1945 in Taiwan only marked the beginning of the military occupation. International law specifies that “Military occupation does not transfer sovereignty.”

With this knowledge, we must next consider the situation when military occupation has ended. Since the close of the Napoleonic period, there are only two possibilities for the end of "military occupation" -- one is that the region (area, territory, etc.) itself becomes a sovereign and independent state and the other is that the region becomes part of another sovereign and independent state. In either one of these instances, the "political status" of the region has indeed been determined.

For Taiwan, since it does not belong to China and is not independent itself, it is clear that Taiwan has remained as occupied territory up to the present day. In order to work on solving this issue, the Taiwan people first need to carefully consider which country is the “legal occupier.”

Further References and Links
Taiwan's Legal Status: An Overview of the San Francisco Peace Treaty

Areas Conquered by U.S. Military Forces and therefore under USMG Jurisdiction -- with later "new disposition" by peace treaty