Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-Taiwan Relations
DE RUEHIN #1396/01 1710911
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 200911Z JUN 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5716
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 6932
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8186
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001396
DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - DAVID FIRESTEIN
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: U.S.-TAIWAN RELATIONS
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage June 19-20 on President Chen Shui-bian's proposal to hold a
referendum on the island's UN bid under the name Taiwan and the U.S.
State Department's statement Monday, which opposes such an
initiative; on the 2008 presidential election; on the aftermath
following the detention of Eastern Multimedia Group Chairman Gary
Wang Sunday; and on other local issues. The pro-independence
"Liberty Times" ran a banner headline on page two June 20 that said
"Referendum on the UN Bid, the United States Opposes [It], but the
DPP Will Not Flinch." With regard to AIT Chairman Raymond
Burghardt's recent visit and the U.S. arms procurements budget, the
"Liberty Times" carried an exclusive news story on page eight June
19 with the headline: "KMT Blocks the Budget for PACIII Missiles
Again and It Even Comes up with a 'New Excuse' to Stall It; Raymond
Burghardt 'Almost Falls out of the Chair' When He Hears [the
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a "Liberty Times"
analysis lashed out at AIT Chairman Burghardt for his remarks on
President Chen's proposal to hold a referendum on Taiwan's UN bid.
The article said Taiwan does not need to seek approval from others
to hold a referendum. A separate "Liberty Times" analysis also
chimed in by saying harshly that the United States is in no position
to interfere with Taiwan's decision to conduct referenda. A
"Liberty Times" op-ed piece urged Washington to engage in high-level
meetings with Taiwan over the island's UN bid. An analysis in the
pro-unification "United Daily News," however, said that for
President Chen, the importance of the sustainability of the DPP
regime has long outranked that of the U.S.-Taiwan relations, so it
is impossible for the United States to ask Chen to make concession
over this issue. A separate "United Daily News" op-ed also said
President Chen has long grown accustomed to Washington's oral
opposition, and he will get what he wants eventually after the
scolding of the United States. An editorial in the
limited-circulation, pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan
News" urged Washington to consider carefully Taiwan's position to
hold a referendum on its UN bid. End summary.
A) "Burghardt Relays Message in a High-Profile Manner; Taiwan Does
Not Need to Watch Others' Expression [for Signs of Approval] for
Deputy Editor-in-Chief Tsou Jiing-wen said in an analysis in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 500,000] (6/19):
"When compared with his attitude shown during his first visit to
Taiwan in the capacity [of AIT chairman] last year, Raymond
Burghardt demonstrated a very different bearing during his visit
this time. He sounded very much like a 'governor-general' who has
come to inspect [the island]. During his several closed-door
meetings with leaders of the ruling and opposition parties,
Burghardt took the initiative in mentioning the referenda, and
without too many meaningless remarks, Burghardt made the U.S.
position very clear. ...
"Burghardt said that '[O]ur attitude is very clear, and you are
clearly aware of it. If you really do it, we will surely speak out,
and we will not be out of reaction." His implication was that the
candidates themselves will have to assess the impact on their
campaign should the United States come forth to criticize such a
move! Immediately following Burghardt's remarks, A-Bian announced
that he would push for a referendum on the island's 'UN bid under
the name 'Taiwan' in tandem with the presidential election. [Such a
move] was meant to get it straight to the Americans that 'you didn't
convince me.' [Chen's] choice is perfectly accurate when it is
judged against the backdrop of the triangular relationship between
Washington, Beijing and Taipei over the recent years. The Americans
cannot just ask Taiwan to shut up obediently without offering
something in return, including a free trade agreement.
"Burghardt has made many inappropriate statements in public during
his visit this time, but it is a pity that few political figures
rebutted him immediately after he made them. For instance,
Burghardt said he wanted to meet with the presidential candidates,
and whether he would meet with President Chen was undecided yet!
[Burghardt's remarks] were akin to a foreign envoy, who goes to the
United States, looks down on President George W. Bush while showing
more interest in meeting with the candidates of the Republican and
Democratic Parties. Burghardt sounded exactly like a supervisor
from a superior country when he said the Taiwan government and the
two presidential candidates had better be prudent in their remarks
and actions during the campaigning process.
"A-Bian remains in charge of Taiwan's policies until May 20, 2008,
and there is even no room for Ma Ying-jeou and Frank Hsieh to meddle
in [the policies.] It is not without reasons that Burghardt dared
to disregard diplomatic decorum by behaving so rudely and making
improper remarks. But A-Bian is determined to go his own way. In
comparison, he is the one with a certain style and moral character.
It is indeed such a pity that both Ma and Hsieh have chosen to keep
quiet and have not carried themselves with dignity!"
B) "The United States Is in No Position to Interfere with Taiwan's
Deputy Editor-in-Chief Tsou Jiing-wen said in an analysis in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 500,000] (6/20):
"Exactly as Raymond Burghardt had previously 'warned,' the U.S.
State Department has issued a statement 'not supporting' Taiwan's
referendum on its UN bid. This is, without a doubt, a clear
position held by the United States. But the matter is that it
requires the support of the Taiwan people only, not that of the U.S.
government, to conduct referenda in Taiwan. The [U.S.] statement is
akin to rubbish; it is unconstructive and thus can be thrown away.
"When it comes to the engagement between nations, what weighs most
should be their common interests. A country cannot possibly get any
positive response from another country if it attempts to impose its
unilateral interests on the latter. Over the past few years, Taiwan
has constantly faced unjust treatment during its public attempts to
participate in the international organizations, while under the
table it has been subject to the same obligations [as other member
nations]. A key factor [behind this situation] is the United
States' appeasement and tolerance toward those rogues. Since the
United States has failed to play the role of policeman well, 'who
cares' [what it said] -- to quote a widely-used Chinese expression
-- when it only blows whistles at Taiwan.
"The State Department said it does not support Taiwan's
participatiQin the international organizations for which statehood
is a requirement. Should this be the case, given the fact that
national defense is more closely related to the symbol of a
sovereign state, why did the United States stamp its foot when the
arms procurements budget was stalled in the Legislative Yuan for a
period of time? Why did it not apply the same logic to say that it
'does not support' Taiwan's military buildup? ...
"The Americans have badly estimated the situation: Washington is
able to use its policies to restrain Taiwan only when the island
needs to seek help from the United States in various aspects. But
now that such necessity has dropped to its record low point, what
does Taiwan have to fear since it has 'nothing to lose' now? The
United States has never approved of it throughout the entire process
when Taiwan held its first referendum in 2004. It is be very
unrealistic for the interlocutors that Washington sent to Taiwan to
believe that they can use the one and only reason of defending
Taiwan to suppress the island to act like a vegetable. ..."
C) "The United States' One China Policy Should Not Be Viewed as a
Reason [for Requesting That President Chen Shui-bian Stop a
Referendum on Taiwan's UN Bid]"
Professor Chen Wen-hsien at the National Chengchi University opined
in the pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 500,000]
"... Taiwan's participation in the United Nations will be more
conducive for the United States to strengthen its interest in East
Asia in the long run. Both the United States and Taiwan should thus
hold high-level meetings about this issue. Since Washington is able
to engage in dialogue with North Korea, with which it has no
diplomatic ties, and the People's Republic of China, with which it
did not have diplomatic ties, there is no need for it to dodge
consultations with Taiwan now!"
D) "The United States Strongly Opposes [Taiwan's] Referendum on UN
Bid; Bian to Challenge It More Sternly"
Washington correspondent Vincent Chang noted in the "Washington
Observation" column in the pro-unification "United Daily News"
[circulation: 400,000] (6/20):
"... The real intent of Chen Shui-bian and the DPP to manipulate the
[referendum] issue is to duplicate the vote-luring effect that they
[successfully] achieved in 2004 when 'the referendum was bundled
with the presidential election.' But what sensitive Washington has
been concerned about are cross-Strait relations. That is why
Washington acted hurriedly to define, via the State Department's
unambiguous statement, this potential referendum as [a move that]
'appears designed to change the status quo unilaterally;' that
'wouQincrease tensions in the Taiwan Strait;' and that 'would run
counter to President Chen's repeated commitments to President Bush
and the international community.' ...
"This year's situation is obviously different. The United States
has, at an early stage, used the word 'opposition' to draw a red
line regarding Chen's referendum on the island's UN bid under the
name 'Taiwan.' Such a move is akin to telling [Chen] that there is
no room for negotiation or ambiguity. But even though Washington
has shown its "hole card" in advance, it still holds expectations
that Chen will come forth and settle the controversy in the end.
That is why [the State Department] said 'we urge President Chen to
exercise leadership by rejecting such a proposed referendum.' But
for Chen, the importance of the sustainability of the DPP regime has
perhaps long since outranked that of Taiwan-U.S. relations. If the
whole DPP commonly believes that it is necessary to bundle the
referendum with the presidential election, then the United States
will be unsuccessful in asking Chen to make a concession."
E) "The United States Harshly Questions Bian, but [Is It an Attempt
to] 'Suffer a Scolding to Get What You Want'?"Qlitical commentator Wang Jung-lin opiQin the pro-unification
"United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000] (6/20):
"Chen Shui-bian said clearly June 18 that he hopes to hold a
referendum on [Taiwan's] UN bid in tandem with the presidential
election next year. But the next day, the U.S. State Department
immediately mentioned Chen's name and asked him to retract such an
initiative on the ground that this referendum appears designed to
change the status quo and would increase tensions in the Taiwan
Strait. Such oral opposition by the United States has been an old
approach used many times [by Washington], and Chen has long since
got accustomed to Washington's mentioning his name, as previous
experience has proved that, once he gets his head past a narrow
opening, his body can pass as well. As a result, who is the
intended audience for this two-man comic show?
"There are two designated kinds of audience. For the United States,
its audience is Beijing; as long as there is any slight commotion on
Taiwan's part, almost without exception, Washington will 'scold'
Taiwan to show Beijing. ... For the Chen administration, however,
its audience is the Taiwan people. The purpose for Chen to design
this [show of] 'bundling a referendum with the presidential
election' was of course to solicit votes, and it is not necessarily
related -- or it might even trigger negative consequences -- to the
questions of whether Taiwan is ready to change the status quo in the
Taiwan Strait or whether it is able to join the UN. ..."
F) "U.S. Should Decide Where It Stands"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (6/20):
"Even after discounting the exaggeration by the mainstream
pro-Kuomintang media, the call by an anonymous official of the
United States State Department directed at President Chen Shui-bian
to 'reject' a proposed referendum on whether Taiwan should apply to
join the United Nations under the name of 'Taiwan' makes a travesty
of last week's declaration by U.S. President George W. Bush in
Prague that Washington 'supports the growth of democratic movements
and institutions in every nation.' ... No official of the U.S. has
any right to tell President Chen to 'reject' this referendum
petition and the president himself has no right or authority to stop
the current campaign. Assuming the report is correct, the
Washington official, whose remarks mainly parrot a complaint made
last week by the PRC's own Office of Taiwan Affairs, has an
exaggerated view of the significance of this initiative.
"First, the referendum itself does not even constitute a 'change' in
Taiwan's status, but, if approved, would only show tQ an
overwhelming majority of Taiwan's citizQhope that the United
Nations member countries will 'change' Taiwan's status of exclusion
from the U.N. Second, the referendum does not directly call for a
change in Taiwan's official name, but only refers to the title to be
used in the U.N. More to the point, the very fact that the U.S.
State Department believes Chen can stop this process reveals that
the State Department either does not believe Taiwan is a democracy
or simply does not understand how Taiwan's democratic political
system operates. The president simply has no direct power or right
to halt an ongoing petition campaign or to order the Executive Yuan
or the CEC to either certify or reject the initial or secondary
petitions or to schedule the timing of the referendum vote. The
people who will ultimately determine the course of this referendum
campaign are the citizens and eligible voters in Taiwan, who can use
their free will and good judgment to decide whether to sign
petitions to put the issue on the ballot or whether to vote for or
against the proposal.
"For our part, we concur that Taiwan should apply to join the United
Nations as 'Taiwan' and we concur that the Taiwan electorate have an
opportunity to express their will on this issue in a referendum
vote. We urge Washington to carefully consider its position. If
the U.S. State Department upholds the principle of universality in
the U.N. Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and
desires true regional stability, it should support efforts to find a
method to ensure the direct representation of the 23 million people
of Taiwan in the U.N. system. If Washington had done so and had not
turned a blind eye to the drive by the PRC to arbitrarily change
Taiwan's status quo by 'legalizing' its claim of sovereignty over
Taiwan and building up military power to threaten direct annexation,
there would probably have been no need for this referendum drive.
Of course, there is the possibility the U.S. State Department itself
believes that the authoritarian PRC regime and not the
democratically elected government of Taiwan should represent the
Taiwan people in the U.N. If so, we wish the U.S. State Department
would publicly affirm its position that the people of Taiwan are to
be seen as an 'exception' to the no longer Universal Declaration of
Human Rights and also cease hypocritical prating about how
Washington 'supports democracy in every nation of the world.'"