Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations, Taiwan's Un
DE RUEHIN #2550/01 3370922
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 030922Z DEC 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7488
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7484
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8770
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 002550
DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - NIDA EMMONS
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: U.S.-CHINA-TAIWAN RELATIONS, TAIWAN'S UN
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage December 1-3 on the controversy over the voting system for
the January legislative elections; on China's refusal to allow the
USS Kitty Hawk and its supporting vessels to dock in Hong Kong in
late November; and on the 2008 presidential elections. In terms of
editorials and commentaries, an editorial in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" called the attention of both China and the United
States to the results of a recent opinion survey conducted by the
Straits Exchange Foundation, which showed that more Taiwan people
preferred independence to unification with China. The article also
called on the United States to support Taiwan's bid to join the UN.
With regard to the USS Kitty Hawk event, an editorial in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" called China a
country "that is chronically unable to understand its obligations as
a responsible nation." An editorial in the conservative,
pro-unification, English-language "China Post" also said the even
has "China in an unfavorable light." A separate "Taipei Times"
op-ed, on the other hand, commented on Taiwan's UN referendum and
urged Washington not to penalize Taiwan for its "errant behavior" by
withholding the sale of F-16 C/D fighter jets. The article said
"weakening Taiwan's defense will simply add to the U.S.' burden."
2. U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations
A) "'Anti-Annexation' Is the Interests That Rise above [Those of
the] Political Parties and Concern All People"
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000]
"The [results] of the 'National Poll on the Twenty Years of
Exchanges between Both Sides of the Taiwan Strait,' which were
recently published by the Strait s Exchange Foundation, showed that
the Taiwan respondents supporting independence have risen to 44.9
percent. Twenty-three percent of those polled said they preferred
maintaining the status quo, while 18.6 percent said they favored
unification between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait; 13.5 percent
of the respondents either declined to answer the question or said
they have no ideas about it. When asked [to choose between
independence and unification] if the status quo cannot be
maintained, 52 percent of the respondents preferred independence
while 24.4 percent said they favored unification. ...
"Not only the ruling and opposition parties in Taiwan, but also
China, should pay attention to the results of this opinion. The
proposals raised by Hu Jintao at the 17th Chinese Communist Party
Congress regarding 'both sides of the Taiwan Strait being of one
China; 'both sides being of the same organismic community;' and
'people of both sides of the Taiwan Strait jointly deciding on
Taiwan's future' have been rejected by a majority of the public
opinion in Taiwan. Such an indication showed [Beijing's] so-called
'placing hope in the Taiwan people' is nothing but a hollow slogan.
If the Chinese leaders really attach importance to the Taiwan
people, they should respect the choice made by Taiwan's mainstream
"In addition, we also hope other friendly countries, such as the
United States, will see that to maintain Taiwan's status as an
independent sovereignty and to turn the island into a fully normal
country are the wishes of a majority of the Taiwan people rather
than a false image created by the politicians. Movements such as
the writing of a new constitution, name change, and Taiwan's UN bid
are those 'desired by the people' and a natural outcome when Taiwan
moves toward becoming a democratic country. If other friendly
countries like the United States approve of Taiwan's democratic
values and the Taiwan people's right to determine their own future,
they should not oppose Taiwan's UN referendum. Instead, they should
assist Taiwan in becoming a UN member as early as possible. ..."
B) "For the US, It's No Port in a Storm"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (12/1):
"... Beijing's refusal to allow the Kitty Hawk and its supporting
vessels to dock in Hong Kong was not a subtle dig between wordsmith
diplomats; it made a mockery of the US Navy and -- worse -- on
Thanksgiving, possibly the most important holiday for families in
the US, let alone for sailors on active duty and loved ones who
wasted good money to meet them in Hong Kong. ...
"Describing the actions of the Chinese over refusing safe haven for
the minesweepers, Admiral Tim Keating, the head of the US Pacific
Command, said: 'It is not, in our view, conduct that is indicative
of a country who understands its obligations as a responsible
nation. Strong language, indeed. But it points to an even uglier
truth, and that is that China -- on international relations, human
rights, disease control and notification, environmental protection,
quality control in trade and any other number of critical matters --
is a country that is, indeed, chronically unable to understand its
obligations as a responsible nation. ... Now, by gratuitously
infuriating the most powerful military on the planet, we can see
that even these fundamental tactics are beyond Beijing's
capabilities, let alone explaining away the deep-seated hostility
toward the US that prompted the saga. It will be fascinating to
chart the fallout."
C) "Who's Coming to Dinner?"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (12/1):
"... But last week in Hong Kong, many Americans were disappointed
when their loved ones failed to show up for dinner on Thanksgiving
Day. These Americans, about 8,000 servicemen aboard the USS Kitty
Hawk and the carrier's battle group including submarines and
escorts, were eager to spend their Thanksgiving holiday in Hong
Kong, their favorite port of call and destination for rest and
recreation. Many families of crew members had flown to Hong Kong to
meet them, only to find at the last minute that their dream for a
Hong Kong holiday was blighted. ...
"In a sense, the GIs suffered a collateral casualty from China's
diplomatic fire, and China did not emerge unscathed either. A
four-day R&R vacation in Hong Kong -- Suzie Wong's world -- by 8,000
U.S. servicemen and their families would have been a bonanza for the
island's tourism industry. Turning them away was unwise at best.
Besides, it was not that 'humanitarian' to deprive American navy men
of the chance to meet with their families at the Thanksgiving dinner
table. It put China in an unfavorable light. Few would applaud
Beijing for 'teaching the Yankees a lesson' this way. In diplomacy,
the creation of a win-win situation is the best choice. Or, if
impossible, at least a win-loss outcome is better than a loss-loss
result as the one created by Beijing's Thanksgiving flip-flop."
3. Taiwan's UN Referendum
"Lessons from the UN Referendum"
Li Thian-hok, a commentator based in Pennsylvania, opined in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
"... While the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government may
have failed to consult Washington in advance before it committed
itself to the UN referendum, and thus deserves Washington's wrath,
it would be rash to judge the referendum as merely an election ploy.
The fact is the Taiwanese people are fed up with China's persistent
efforts to isolate and denigrate Taiwan's status. ... Meanwhile in
Taiwan the number of signatures endorsing the UN referendum under
the Taiwan name has now reached 2.7 million, way above the legal
threshold. The two versions of the UN referendum will be held in
conjunction with the presidential poll on March 22 next year. While
the Central Election Commission is still working out the procedure
for voting, the referendum will proceed. Neither the DPP nor the KMT
can now abandon the UN referendum without committing political
"So it is somewhat surprising that American Institute in Taiwan
Director Stephen Young reiterated US objections to the referendum in
a press conference on Nov. 9. He complained that the referendum
'poses a threat to cross-strait stability and appears inconsistent
... with the spirit of President Chen's public commitments.'
Washington and Taipei are now at an impasse. Neither side is willing
nor able to change its position. One or both of the referendums may
well pass despite the high threshold (a majority of all eligible
voters) if the turnout rate is high enough. The outcome is
unpredictable because the KMT is playing a complex game of
discouraging voting for both referendums while pretending to promote
its own version. What is important, however, is not the outcome of
the referendums but how to restore mutual trust between the US and
Taiwan and how to prevent a similar quarrel from developing between
the two long-standing democratic allies. ...
"... Taipei should pay greater attention to the interests of the US
and how those interests affect those of Taiwan. Taipei must learn
to work closely with Washington, since both share the same
democratic values and strategic interests in peace and stability of
East Asia. No effort should be spared to restore mutual trust. ...
For Washington it is best to resist the temptation to penalize
Taiwan for its errant behavior, for example, by withholding the sale
of F-16 C/D fighter jets. Weakening Taiwan's defense will simply
add to the US' burden.
"The status quo is changing every day as the People's Liberation
Army develops ever greater capacity, not just to invade Taiwan, but
eventually to challenge US dominance of Asia and beyond. To deter a
conflict, Washington must maintain a sufficient naval and air
presence in the Western Pacific, as mandated by the Taiwan Relations
Act. In the long run, the US must endeavor to persuade China to
renounce the use of force against Taiwan and to respect the right of
the Taiwanese to determine their own future without outside
pressure, because a more democratic and peace-loving China is in the
common interest of the US and Taiwan. Taiwan's security is
ultimately the US' security as well."