Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-Taiwan Relations
DE RUEHIN #1413/01 1720653
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 210653Z JUN 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5740
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 6938
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8190
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001413
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 21 on the DPP administration's determination to push
for a referendum on Taiwan's UN bid under the name "Taiwan" despite
the U.S. State Department's reiteration Tuesday of its opposition to
such an initiative; on the 2008 presidential election; on the sharp
rise of the Taiwan shares to a fresh seven-year high Wednesday; and
on other local issues. The pro-unification "United Daily News" ran
a banner headline on page four that said "Toughly Opposing the
Referendum, the United States Refuses to Reiterate Its Six
Assurances to Taiwan."
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an op-ed in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" said "the consequence of the United
States' responding to or acting in line with China's pressure over
Taiwan will make it fall exactly into the trap carefully set by
China." An editorial in the centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times," on
the other hand, pointed out some subtle but noteworthy differences
between the proposed referendum this time and the one held in 2004.
An editorial in the limited-circulation, pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" commented on U.S.-Taiwan relations
and said, "Taiwan appreciates and is grateful for the US'
friendship. But at times, the US also has to know what being a
friend means, and when to respect a friend's point of view." End
A) "The United States Has Fallen into China's Trap?"
Luo Chih-cheng, associate professor of political science at Soochow
University, opined in the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
[circulation: 500,000] (6/21):
"... It is imaginable that Washington's opposition [to Taiwan's UN
bid] was a result caused forcibly by Beijing's backlashes and
pressure, so it went beyond its duties to impose pressure on Taiwan.
In fact, it is widely rumored in Beijing that the shortest route
from Beijing to Taipei is through Washington. But we must point out
that the consequence of the United States' responding to or acting
in line with China's pressure over Taiwan will make it fall exactly
into the trap carefully set by China.
"If Washington succeeds in imposing pressure on Taipei, Taipei will
surely hold grudges against Washington. Also, if Taiwan turns a
blind eye to the U.S. opposition, Washington will surely be
displeased [with Taipei]. It is very clear that the result of
Washington's imposing pressure on Taiwan will certainly be
deteriorated Taipei-Washington relations. Beijing will then become
the only winner. ... The reality that Washington must encounter is
that it is gradually losing the support and favorable impression of
the Taiwan people toward the United States. Also, in the end, it
will have to face a crueler question: namely, 'who lost Taiwan?'"
B) "This Time Bundling a Referendum with the Presidential Election
is Rather Different"
The centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 400,000]
"... Anyone with a clear mind can tell that the situation this time
is slightly different from the previous ones. First, Washington's
reaction came more quickly than before and its expression was
clearer than before. It no longer reiterated the 'Four Nos and One
Without' pledge; instead, it clearly indicated its 'opposition' and
requested in public that Bian 'abandon' his initiative. Second, the
Blue camp's reaction was also totally different from before. Not
only did it no longer customarily criticize the Green camp, but KMT
presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou, to everyone's surprise, also
expressed strong disagreement to the U.S. statement. He even took a
stand and indicated his clear support for any proposal 'that is
conducive for Taiwan and meets Taiwan's efforts to join the UN with
dignity.' In other words, in the face of President Chen's move this
time, Washington has intensified its criticism, while the Blue
camp's attack against Chen has weakened. Such subtle changes are
worth observation. ...
"The subtlety lies in the fact that there is no turning back for the
Green camp's referendum on 'Taiwan's UN bid under the name Taiwan.'
But the U.S. reaction is unusually strong because if the Green camp
succeeds in getting through this strategic pass, it will mean the
total collapse of the 'Four Nos and One Without' pledge. As a
result, there is no way that Washington will make any concession
[over this issue]. But other than imposing some light penalties in
terms of [its] diplomatic treatment [to Taiwan], what else is
Washington capable of doing? ...
"The Blue camp used to play a certain subtle role of leverage during
this sort of standoff, so that both the Green camp and the United
States can have elbow room to make some efforts. But the Blue camp
has obviously learned its lesson this time. It chose to stand on
the opposite side of the United States and at the same time maintain
a certain distance from the Green camp. ..."
C) "When Being Bad Isn't Bad"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (6/21):
"'We don't always have to be well-behaved. Sometimes we must be
bad,' National Security Council Secretary-General Mark Chen said in
March when the US expressed opposition to President Chen Shui-bian's
call for a new constitution. The US has faulted Taiwan's behavior
again. One day after President Chen proposed that a referendum on
the nation's bid to join the UN under the name 'Taiwan' be held
simultaneously with next year's presidential election, the US State
Department said it was opposed to the proposal and urged the
president to drop it. Back in March, Mark Chen also said: 'We must
sometimes say 'no' to the United States.'
"Indeed. Before anyone in the US State Department again points to
Taiwan as being a 'troublemaker,' it is worth contemplating whether
being bad is really bad. If bad means Taiwan exercising its
democratic rights and letting the voice of its people be heard,
then, yes, let Taiwan be bad in the eyes of the US State Department.
Taiwan is an independent state with its own government, a freely
elected head of state and representatives, its own currency and
national territory. It need not be told by the US -- nor anyone
else for that matter -- what it can or cannot do. The Taiwanese
government is answerable only to Taiwanese -- not the US, China or
anybody else who does not have the right to vote in Taiwan. ...
"Enough is enough. Taiwan needs to step out and start making some
noise to grab the world's attention. Doing so exercises the
universal right to self-determination that is a hallmark of
democracy. ... What is there to fear in having the people of Taiwan
raise their collective voice and make themselves heard? ... Taiwan
appreciates and is grateful for the US' friendship. But at times,
the US also has to know what being a friend means, and when to
respect a friend's point of view."