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Cablegate: Media Reaction - Cross-Strait Talks, Taiwan-Japan Dispute

VZCZCXYZ0007
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #0835/01 1681053
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161053Z JUN 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9176
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8368
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9599

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000835

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 - CROSS-STRAIT TALKS, TAIWAN-JAPAN DISPUTE


1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies June 14-16 gave
extensive coverage to the rising diplomatic row between Taiwan and
Japan over a collision between a Taiwan fishing boat and a Japanese
frigate in the disputed waters around the Tiaoyutai Islands last
Tuesday. News coverage also focused on agreements signed between
Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and China's Association
for Relations across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) in Beijing last
Thursday, following a decade-long hiatus in talks between SEF and
ARATS. The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" ran a banner headline on
page four on June 14 reading "For the First Time Hu [Jintao] Has
Given Orders to Speed up Negotiations over Taiwan's [Elbow] Room in
the International Community."

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an editorial in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" criticized the agreement signed
between SEF and ARATS in Beijing and said it will jeopardize
Taiwan's arms procurement with the Unitd States, its foreign
relations and eventually, Taiwan's sovereignty. An editorial in the
centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" praised the talks between SEF
and ARATS and urged Ma's administration to get ready as cross-Strait
relations enter a new phase. A separate "China Times" op-ed said
the resumption of dialogue between SEF and ARATS has been
successful, but both Taiwan and China have to be aware that the
challenges lying ahead might have an impact on improved cross-Strait
relations. An op-ed in the pro-independence, English-language
"Taipei Times" said Taiwan's expectations for greater international
space cannot simply rely on China's goodwill. With regard to the
dispute between Taiwan and Japan over the Tiaoyutai Islands, a
"Liberty Times" op-ed discussed the United States' role in the
Tiaoyutai Islands controversy and said Taiwan's remarks about going
to war with Japan over the Tiaoyutai Islands indicated that it would
not hesitate to declare war against the "U.S.-Japan alliance." An
editorial in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" cited the
controversy over the Tiaoyutai Islands and cautioned the Ma
administration to maintain balance in its relations with Washington,
Tokyo and Beijing and not to become lopsided toward China. A "China
Times" op-ed urged the Ma administration to carefully handle the
controversy over the Tiaoyutai Islands and take the U.S.-Japan
security alliance and cross-Strait relations into consideration.
End summary.

3. Cross-Strait Talks

A) "The SEF-ARATS Beijing Agreement Is the Start of Taiwan Opening
Its Door and Inviting the Thief in"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000]
editorialized (6/14):

"... What is more noteworthy is that the peaceful atmosphere
deliberately created for the white-glove meetings between the
governments of both sides [of the Taiwan Strait] has generated
immediate and evidently unfavorable results for Taiwan. Big
countries in the international community, such as the United States,
Japan and the European Union, have all expressed positive responses
to the cross-Strait talks. But since the situation across the
Taiwan Strait has alleviated, China has naturally taken advantage of
[the current situation] and requested that the United States
permanently cease its arms sales to Taiwan. Not only did some
scholars in the United States assert that Washington should postpone
the sales of advanced weaponry, such as the F-16 fighter jets, to
Taiwan for a year, but also there were messages from Washington
officials saying that the major U.S. arms sales to Taiwan will be
postponed and determined only after the new U.S. president is
elected. What is more absurd is that a recent 'Washington Post'
report said the Taiwan side has privately asked the U.S. government
not to send the notifications [of the arms procurement package to
Taiwan] in the next few weeks so as not to affect Taiwan's
negotiations with China. The Ma administration must clarify this
'evil deed' that it has committed upon itself in the pursuit of
unpractical economic interests. Also, similar [negative]
consequences from the international community included [reports
saying that] given Taiwan's proactive efforts to reconcile with
China, Taiwan's diplomatic allies in Latin America, such as
Nicaragua, are concerned and closely monitoring the change of
attitude on Taiwan's part and may adjust [its relations with Taiwan]
accordingly.

"In addition to the impact on [Taiwan's] arms deals and foreign
relations caused by the false impression that the island is
reconciling with China, the Taiwan people's weakened alertness
[against China] is another serious price Taiwan has to pay. Even
though the idea of a new, straighter air route [across the Taiwan
Strait] was not included in the SEF-ARATS talks in Beijing this
time, the mentality behind such an idea is debatable. The idea of
adopting a new, straighter air route across the Taiwan Strait is
akin to putting the shortened time of flight ahead of Taiwan's air
defense needs, a move that will surely and evidently reduce the time
for Taiwan to react to air threats from China. Such a mentality of

paying attention to only minor benefits but turning a blind eye to
[the island's] national security will likely result in the
consequence that Taiwan's sovereignty will eventually become
expendable. ..."

B) "Looking Forward to Seeing Both Sides of the Strait Walk on the
New Road of Stable Interaction Starting Now"

The centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (6/14):

"... Another level of 'pragmatism' is visible, judging from the
level of representatives sent by both sides of the Strait. During
the negotiation ten years ago, [Taiwan's] Mainland Affairs Council
(MAC) officials all stayed behind and had to concentrate on waiting
for [Taiwan's] Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) representatives'
reports. As a result, during the negotiations, not only
representatives of both sides across the Strait had to face off, but
also SEF and MAC had to wrestle back and forth. Nowadays, MAC
officials all sit at the negotiation table in the capacities of
advisor or experts. Negotiations this time were no different from
'official negotiations' except for the capacities of representatives
of both sides of the Strait. Once the mode of 'officials
negotiating in their capacities of civilians' is assured, the future
mode of dialogue across the Strait is decided. The mode of
negotiations from both sides of the Strait in the future will be a
quasi-official dialogue with SEF as the base, and will transcend the
mode of using SEF as a cover-up, as was done in the old days. ..."

C) "A Small Step for SEF and ARATS, but a Big Step for Cross-Strait
Relations"

Chao Chun-shan, a Professor of the Graduate Institute of China
Studies at Taiwan's Tamkang University, opined in the centrist,
KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 400,000] (6/14):

"In terms of the international community, the attitudes of the
United States and Japan have decisive influence [on the development
of cross-Strait relations]. They expect both sides of the Strait to
hold dialogue to assure peace and security in the region. However,
based on their individual interests, neither [the United States nor
Japan] want to see the development of a cross-Strait relationship
derailed from a track under their control. There is a delicate
change in the trilateral relations among Taiwan, Japan and China
because of the incident in which a Taiwan fishing boat was hit by a
Japanese frigate and sank off the waters around the Tiaoyutai
Islands....The controversy [over the collision in the Tiaoyutai
Island waters], which involved the issue of sovereignty, is
difficult to put aside for now because it happened unexpectedly.
..."

D) "Don't Leave Our Future in Hands of Beijing"

Chiang Huang-chih, an Associate Professor at National Taiwan
University's College of Law, opined in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (6/15):

"... Cross-strait relations is an important issue that must be dealt
with. China has delivered 'goodwill' messages on Taiwan's WHO
membership bid, but it would be premature and unwise to examine and
discuss Taiwan's diplomatic issues within a cross-strait framework
because of this single case. If Taiwan's international
participation should be decided by China, our so-called
'international space' would be nothing more than a 'cage' within a
'one China' framework, even if the 'motherland' was considering the
interests of Taiwanese. Hong Kong and Macau are good examples:
Would Taiwanese be happy to see that happen here?

"If Taiwan gave up its diplomatic efforts and failed to accumulate
bargaining chips on the international space issue, urgent
negotiations with China on diplomatic issues and the hope for
seeking international space and dignity with China's goodwill would
be nothing but capitulation, or a plea for mercy."

4. Taiwan-Japan Dispute

A) "Declaring War on the U.S.-Japan Alliance?"

Lai I-chung, former director of the DPP's International Affairs
Department, opined in the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
[circulation: 720,000] (6/14):

"... Anyone with common knowledge of international affairs is aware
that even though the United States will not step into the dispute
between Taiwan and Japan over the Tiaoyutai Islands, it acknowledges
that the islands are currently under Japan's jurisdiction. Such an
attitude is clearly included in the U.S.-Japan defense treaty and
was emphasized [by Washington] in 2004. [The remarks about Taiwan]
not ruling out the possibility of going to war with Japan indicated

that [Taiwan] would not hesitate to declare war on the 'U.S.-Japan
alliance' over the Tiaoyutai Islands. This is the main reason why
the Beijing government has been taking great efforts in restraining
its people from acting provocatively over the [controversial]
Tiaoyutai Islands issue. Doesn't Ma's administration, which claimed
that it has experts specializing in Japanese affairs, know that?"

B) "Walking on a Tight Role with Balance"

The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000]
editorialized (6/16):

"... The controversy [over the Tiaoyutai Islands] will soon vanish
like a tempest in a teapot. But the chronic changes in the long run
may be more worrisome. It appears that Taiwan is slowly tilting
toward China from its [close] relations with the United States and
Japan. [Taiwan's] postponement of the arms procurement package has
long annoyed the United States. President Ma has been dodging and
shirking the issue since he assumed office, and [his practice] has
not only upset Washington but also vaguely implied that because
Taiwan is tilting toward China it no longer needs to buy that many
weapons. Taiwan's intense reactions during the recent controversy
over the Tiaoyutai Islands seemed to indicate that the island no
longer cares about the harm [Taiwan's reactions] would do to its
relations with Japan. Some people even suggested that Taiwan join
hands with China to counterbalance Japan. Does this imply that
Taiwan is alienating itself from Japan and starting slowly to tip in
favor of China?

"In fact, it is because of Taiwan's special relations with the
United States and Japan that China cares so much about Taiwan. The
Ma administration's policy of engaging with China is moving in a
correct direction, but the precondition [for such a policy] is that
Taiwan's relations with Washington and Tokyo remain resolute and
impregnable. If the foundation of [Taiwan's] relations with
Washington and Tokyo is dismantled, China will surely do whatever it
pleases with Taiwan. [Should that happen,] what bargaining chips
will Taiwan still have? The grand strategy for Taiwan should be
that it maintain a close relationship with the United States and
Japan while befriending China."

C) "Why Not Demonstrate a Broader Strategic Perspective?"

Lai I-chung, former director of the DPP's International Affairs
Department and currently a member of the executive board of the
Taipei-based public policy research institute Taiwan Thinktank,
opined in the centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation:
400,000] (6/16):

"... In fact, proper handling of the issue of the Tiaoyutai Islands
will reinforce mutual trust between Taiwan and Japan, and Taiwan and
the U.S. Taiwan will be able to face China on a strong and solid
base and increase its strategic bargaining chips for negotiation
[with China], which will not only expand Taiwan's interests during
negotiations, but also help to establish a stable interaction
framework across the Strait. This will also necessitate 'the
U.S.-Japan security alliance' leaning towards Taiwan. Then, the
scene that [former U.S. Secretary of State] Henry Kissinger created
in the 1970s, in which the Soviet Union and China competed to
maintain relations with the United States, might be replayed in a
scene in which the 'U.S.-Japan security alliance' and China compete
to maintain relations with Taiwan.

"This also implies that when China tries to maintain its relations
with the 'U.S.-Japan security alliance' by restraining itself in
[meddling in] the issue of the Tiaoyutai Islands, Taiwan should not
reverse and fall into a predicament of facing the United States,
Japan and China simultaneously. By handling the issue of the
Tiaoyutai Islands prudently and creatively and creating a scenario
in which China and the U.S.-Japan security alliance both maintain
good relations with Taiwan, it is also very likely that the issue of
the Tiaoyutai Islands will be resolved in a way which benefits
Taiwan. ..."

YOUNG

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