Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-Taiwan Relations


DE RUEHIN #0110/01 0230949
R 230949Z JAN 08





E.O. 12958: N/A

Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies gave significant
coverage January 23 to the slide of global stock markets, including
Taiwan's, after the U.S. Federal Reserve's interest-rate cut failed
to persuade investors that the U.S. economy will avert a recession.
News coverage also focused on the March presidential election and
the UN referendum. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an
editorial in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" discussed KMT
presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou's pledge Tuesday to increase
Taiwan's military budget and to continue arms procurement from the
United States if he is elected president in March. The article
criticized the Blue camp's "despicable" mentality, because it had
sought strongly to block the arms procurement budgets proposed by
the DPP administration. An op-ed in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times," written by Kurt Campbell, chief
executive officer and cofounder of the Center for a New American
Security, discussed the common yet different experiences that
democracies such as the United States and Taiwan share. The article
concluded by saying that "as presidential campaigning continues in
the US and Taiwan, it is important to keep these common political
experiences in mind while both sides negotiate a complex future
together." End summary.

A) "Ma Ying-jeou Reveals Some Information"

The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 500,000]
editorialized (1/23):

"Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday while attending a luncheon party with
some retired military leaders that [if elected] he will maintain
sufficient military readiness and will not call a halt to [Taiwan's]
arms purchases from the United States. Ma also said the
[government's] national defense budget will return to the level
[that it was] under the KMT's governance, and that he will use the
island's strong national defense as a foundation for peace across
the Taiwan Strait.

"We feel reassured after listening to Ma's statements. Ma used to
adopt a very ambiguous attitude toward national defense: He has
never expressed opposition to the Blue legislators' intense moves to
block the arms procurement budget in the Legislative Yuan, and there
was once when he even said flightily that his arms procurement
policy was to buy fast-drying cement [for Taiwan]. [Ma's attitude]
made people suspect that he was seeking deliberately to weaken and
sacrifice [Taiwan's] military in order to pave the way for
unification [with China]. The question is: If Ma is really intent
to maintain a strong military, why did the Blue camp fight so
vigorously against the arms procurements and the national defense
budget when the DPP was the ruling party?

"It was fortunate that the United States was there [for Taiwan]; or
else, should Ma and the Blue camp be held responsible if the People
Liberation Army attacked Taiwan and our military failed to stand its
strike? [The KMT] boycotted national defense [budgets] while its
rival party ruled, and it seeks to resume Taiwan's military buildup
when it becomes the ruling party. No democratic country in the
world would joke with its national security in this way. Ma's
remarks have unconsciously revealed the despicable mentality of the
Blue camp!"

B) "Common yet Different Democracies"

Kurt Campbell, chief executive officer and cofounder of the Center
for a New American Security, opined in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (1/23):

"... There has been extensive discussion of late of a worrisome
drift in the US-Taiwan relationship and there are indeed signs of
discord and clear areas for worry. ... These instances of
disagreement and discord take place amid the background of China's
dramatic rise to great power status. It is undeniable that China now
plays a much larger role in Washington's calculation on virtually
every matter of global importance, from North Korean nuclear weapons
to currency woes to energy anxieties to unrest in Pakistan. The US
now needs a constructive partnership with China as never before,
which has resulted in Taiwan feeling increasingly squeezed by the
growing weight of China in all matters of international diplomacy
and commerce.

"Nevertheless, what is often forgotten behind the banal bromides
that celebrate the vibrancy of Taiwanese democracy is that the US
and Taiwan share a common experience of democracy, including all its
many disappointments, difficulties and dilemmas that cannot be
easily ignored. ... While US officials often claim to be mystified
by a Taiwanese move or maneuver on an issue related to identity or
national character, the truth is that deep down, Americans of
virtually every stripe understand the motivations behind initiatives
that at the same time are seen as disruptive or even dangerous.

"What is sometimes forgotten in the occasionally tense to and fro

between Washington and Taipei is that unlike the previous era of
US-Taiwanese diplomacy, when national authorities could act with
much less concern about public scrutiny or opposition, the current
leaders must be much more responsive to public sentiment and
criticism. While it is true that, on occasion, Taiwanese leaders
have taken steps that went against the advice given by Washington,
these initiatives were usually undertaken with a specific domestic
group of supporters in mind. In a sense, this is the essence of

"The challenge for this and the next generation of US and Taiwanese
leaders will be to better appreciate the pressures and interests of
the other. For the US president, it will mean a simultaneous desire
to maintain a stable and durable understanding with China while at
the same time seeking to preserve Taiwan's security and democracy.
For the Taiwanese president, it will mean negotiating a complex path
between domestic expectations for greater national identity and
international standing, while taking account of the obvious desires
of both Beijing and Washington to avoid actions that could trigger a

"Clearly, Washington and Taipei will have their hands full, but in
the complex trilateral dialogue and diplomacy between Washington,
Taipei and Beijing, it is clear that the common experience of
democracy has created inevitable and undeniable connections between
Taiwan and the US that cannot and should not be ignored. Indeed, it
is these values, along with other strategic interests, that keep the
US so closely engaged in the Western Pacific. So, as presidential
campaigning continues in the US and Taiwan, it is important to keep
these common political experiences in mind while both sides
negotiate a complex future together."


© Scoop Media

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