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

VZCZCXYZ0002
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #0556 1130957
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 220957Z APR 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8739
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8188
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9426

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000556

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

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

Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage April 22 on Premier-designate Liu Chao-shiuan's
announcement of cabinet appointments; on a group of Chinese real
estate tycoons' visit to Taiwan; and on giant chipmaker Intel's
investment worth of US$500 million in Taiwan. In terms of
editorials and commentaries, based on an advertisement placed by the
State Department in local newspapers to request solicitations for
contractors to build the future American Institute in Taiwan
complex, including a Marine Security Guard Quarters (MSGQ), an
editorial in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times"
speculated on the reason why the United States released such
information now what might be Beijing's possible reactions. End
summary.

"Are They Sending the Marines?"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (4/22):

"... Let's for the moment put aside the fact that US foreign policy
has become so militarized that 'better' diplomatic relations are now
being equated with the presence of armed US Marines on foreign
ground, or the surreal prospect of having Marines posted to a
relatively safe city like Taipei at a time when the US military,
with its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and commitments elsewhere, is
already stretched to the limit.

"What matters here is the symbolism of an MSGQ as well as the
conspicuous timing of the request for a proposal.

"Whether the presence of US Marines at a diplomatic compound is a
sign of more official relations is debatable. But given the
sensitive situation in the Taiwan Strait, it wouldn't be surprising
if in the coming weeks Washington played down the significance of
the change, as it will not have gone unnoticed by a Beijing that is
hypersensitive when it comes to Taipei's foreign relations. Surely
the State Department knew this, just as it knew that the ad would
end up, one way or another, in the hands of officials in China.

"So why now, following the election of the Chinese Nationalist
Party's (KMT) Ma Ying-jeou, when relations between Taipei and
Beijing show a chance of improving? Why not last year, when polls
showed 'anti-US' sentiment in Taiwan at an historic high following
Washington's humiliation of President Chen Shui-bian and, by
extension Taiwanese, as the nation sought to gain membership in the
UN and the WHO? Or at times, such as in 1996, when tensions were
high enough that a clash in the Taiwan Strait could have put the
security of US diplomats in Taiwan at risk?

"Surely, security concerns stoked by local animosity toward US
officials and the symbol of their presence in the country would be
the main reason behind the need to post Marines.

"The answer, perhaps, lies in the very chance of a rapprochement
between Taipei and Beijing, an outcome that some in Washington now
fear could sideline the US and undermine its strategic presence in
the Asia-Pacific region. Could it be, then, that the simple placing
of an ad that suggests (at least from Beijing's perspective) the
normalization of diplomatic relations with Taipei serves a purpose
that is far beyond soliciting contractors? Could it be that it is a
means to maintain tensions in the Taiwan Strait at a level that the
US has grown accustomed to and one that justifies its presence in
the region?

"Let's give Washington the benefit of the doubt; maybe it's just bad
timing. But hidden motives or not, whatever happens next is
contingent on how Beijing interprets and reacts to the news."

YOUNG

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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