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Cablegate: Foreign Minister Huang and Chairman Burghardt

VZCZCXRO8820
OO RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHMJ
DE RUEHIN #0464/01 0911021
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 311021Z MAR 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8604
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8115
RUEHWN/AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN 0064
RUEHMJ/AMEMBASSY MAJURO 0040
RUEHMU/AMEMBASSY MANAGUA 0177
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 0142
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 9492
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 9804
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 2584
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 1148
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9355
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 1964
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 6553
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHHJJAA/JICPAC HONOLULU HI
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TAIPEI 000464

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/31/2023
TAGS: PGOV PREL SC PM NU RM CH TW
SUBJECT: FOREIGN MINISTER HUANG AND CHAIRMAN BURGHARDT
DISCUSS DIPLOMATIC CHALLENGES AND THE TRANSITION


Classified By: AIT Director Stephen M. Young,
Reasons: 1.4 (b/d)

1. (C) Summary: Foreign Minister Huang told Chairman
Burghardt and Director Young on March 28 that he remains
worried about the possibility of further diplomatic losses to
Beijing prior to President-elect Ma Ying-jeou's inauguration
on May 20. Huang was most concerned that St. Kitts and Nevis
might switch recognition in the near future, but he believed
Panama would keep its promise to President Chen not to switch
recognition while Chen was in office. The Foreign Ministry
is working with John Feng, Ma's chief foreign policy advisor,
on transition issues. End Summary.

2. (C) AIT Chairman Ray Burghardt, accompanied by Director
Young, met with Foreign Minister James Huang on March 28 to
discuss Taiwan's foreign policy challenges and the
transition. Vice Minister Elizabeth Chu and MFA North
American Affairs Director Leo Lee accompanied FM Huang. The
Chairman and Director congratulated Taiwan for conducting a
smooth and peaceful presidential election that showcased its
strong democracy.

Diplomatic Challenges
---------------------

3. (C) Burghardt asked Huang about the state of Taiwan's
diplomatic relations, especially with Panama, St. Kitts and
Nevis, and partners in Africa. Huang expressed concern about
the possibility of negative developments before Ma
Ying-jeou's inauguration on May 20. According to Huang,
Beijing has been telling Taiwan's diplomatic partners that
the Ma administration will cut foreign aid, which has raised
their concerns about Taipei's commitment to continue existing
aid programs. The Foreign Ministry discussed this issue with
Ma's transition office, which issued a statement that the new
administration would honor Taiwan's commitments to its
diplomatic partners. However, the day after this statement,
Ma told the press that Taiwan would not engage in "check book
diplomacy" or provide "aid" to individuals, which caused a
negative reaction among Taiwan's partners. The Foreign
Ministry has worked to mitigate the damage by meeting with
ambassadors resident in Taiwan, conveying a message on behalf
of Ma's office that the new administration would not change
previous commitments and would continue to cooperate and to
strengthen bilateral relationships.

4. (C) Huang confided that St. Kitts and Nevis has
negotiated a timetable with Beijing to switch recognition
before May 20. Asked about Panama, Huang said he believed
President Martin Torrijos would honor his promise to
President Chen and not switch diplomatic ties to China before
May 20, but after that he did not know. Even though
President Chen had established very good relations with
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Huang said he was not
sure what would happen after Ma's inauguration. The Marshall
Islands, he added, is also at risk as Beijing is working hard
to entice Majuro to switch diplomatic recognition. Huang
acknowledged that Taiwan is trying to woo some countries in
Africa and the Caribbean away from Beijing.

Working with the MA Transition Team
-----------------------------------

5. (C) The Foreign Ministry is working with the Ma
transition team, so far primarily on protocol for the
inauguration and hand-over, and Huang said he would fully
brief his successor. To facilitate a smooth transition,
Huang's Chief of Staff has been working with Ma's chief
foreign policy adviser John Feng. Feng has requested that a
junior Foreign Service officer be assigned to Ma's office.
The Foreign Ministry has also briefed Feng about countries
with which diplomatic relations are unstable. The Director
emphasized the importance of discussing the WHO and OECD
issues with Ma's camp before the transition. (Note: Feng
told the Director March 31 that ROC/Taiwan will not be
applying for WHO membership at the WHA meeting in May this
year.)

6. (C) Noting that it will be up to Ma's office to decide
who to invite to the inauguration, Huang said he understood
Ma is aiming for a simple, down-to-earth inauguration devoid
of frivolity. Ma's office has asked the Foreign Ministry to
inform Taiwan's diplomatic partners that their inaugural
delegations will not be treated to a presidential suite or
stretch-limo during their visits.

Ma Request to Visit the U.S.
----------------------------

7. (C) Huang wondered whether the U.S. would agree to a
pre-inaugural visit by President-elect Ma Ying-jeou. He noted
that Ma's office had not asked the Foreign Ministry to make
the request through appropriate channels.

Comment
-------

8. (C) Huang appeared tired and said he would have the
greatest sympathy for his successor. He showed the Chairman
and Director a framed Hong Kong news article about him with
the headline "Taiwan Foreign Minister Hardest Job in the
World." Given Beijing's continued efforts to persuade
Taiwan's diplomatic remaining partners to switch recognition,
Huang's successor could well face some foreign policy
challenges right off the bat.
YOUNG

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