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Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-Taiwan Arms Sales

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #1026/01 1952224
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 132224Z JUL 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9488
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8441
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9664

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001026

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.-TAIWAN ARMS SALES

Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage July 11 on the government's possible deregulation of Taiwan
chipmakers' investment in China; on the stock market fall; and on
the screening process for Examination Yuan nominees. In terms of
editorials and commentaries, an op-ed in the mass-circulation "Apple
Daily" recounted why U.S.-Taiwan arms sales are alletgedly frozen
and the prospects for Taiwan to obtain arms in time of need. End
summary.

"Analyzing the Mystery of the U.S.-Taiwan Arms Sales"

Fu S. Mei, director and editor-in-chief of the Taiwan Defense
Review, opined in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation:
520,000] (7/11):

"The United States suspended its arms sales to Taiwan, which
resulted in the delay of the procurement of eight items with a total
value exceeding US$11 billion. The prospects are unpredictable.

"In fact, [different items in] the arms sales could have been sent
to the U.S. Congress in batches in March to undergo (paper) review.
There were two reasons that the review was not pushed forward at
that time. One was partly because the official documents which the
U.S. Army was responsible for were not ready yet. The second reason
was that the Bush Administration was purposely looking at the
results of Taiwan's presidential election. However, when it came to
the eve of President Ma [Ying-jeou]'s inauguration [on May 20], U.S.
officials reckoned that the best timing [to deal with the arms
sales] was gone already.

"Just before May 20, AIT Director Stephen Young did convey to the
United States the message, which was proposed by the national
security team of the new [Ma] Administration, hoping that the United
States would 'take interaction across the Strait into consideration'
when it processed the arms sales. Taiwan did not clearly clarify on
what it meant [by the message]. Nevertheless, quite a few officials
in Washington interpreted this message as 'the Ma Administration
would not necessarily worry if the notification to the U.S. Congress
regarding some items in the arms sales was postponed.' This is what
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs
James J. Shinn's accounts were based upon, in which Shinn pointed
out in a Congressional testimony at the end of June that the
suspension of arms sales was because of Taiwan's 'internal
politics.'

"In addition, the Taiwan issue apparently has hardly been a priority
for the Bush Administration in the last few months. This is because
the United States' strategic focus has been on issues such as Iran's
nuclear weapons. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S.
National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley both think that they do not
have time to process the U.S.-Taiwan arms sales and thereby upset
Beijing. ...

"In fact, the White House so far has not made any concrete response
to Ma's letter to [U.S. President George W.] Bush care of former
White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, who came to Taiwan and
attended Ma's inauguration. [The White House] even delayed Card's
debriefing about his Taiwan trip. How the Bush Administration
values the Taiwan issue is pretty obvious here.

"The Ma Administration's original attitude about the arms sale was
that it was necessary to review the sale. However, [the Ma
Administration] was forced to adjust part of its way of speaking
[regarding its attitude about the arms sales] after it was suspected
of delaying the arms sales. [The Ma Administration] also clarified
to the United States at the middle and the end of June that it never
meant to suspend arms procurement and would also carry out the
project of investing in the military, whose budget has been passed
by the Legislative Yuan. At the same time, after noticing the issue
of U.S.-Taiwan arms sales becoming grim, several U.S. think tanks
which are friendly to Taiwan and the American Chamber of Commerce in
Taipei (AmCham) have motivated senators to write President Bush a
letter asking that [the administration] to send the notification of
the arms sales to Congress for review and to complete the final
legal procedure that is required before signing the 'Letter of Offer
and Acceptance' (LOA). ...

"This move obviously has added pressure to Bush's national security
team. As a result, Hadley telephoned [Taiwan's] National Security
Council Secretary-General Su Chi at the end of June and expressed
hope that the Taiwan administration would keep silent concerning the
arms sales for fear of disturbing the Bush Administration's
strategic planning and operations around the globe. Theoretically,
the Ma Administration should not make a big move concerning the arms
sales in the short term.

"Unless the United States has made concrete promises (such as
proceeding on the execution of the arms sales after the Olympic
Games), then the intentions and the actions of the policy-making

team of Bush, Rice, and Hadley should be watched closely. Moreover,
it is possible to mobilize U.S. Congressmen and groups who are
friendly to Taiwan to lobby [for Taiwan] proactively and put
pressure [on the U.S. government] if necessary. ...

"The United States, Taiwan, the Blue, and the Green should all be
held responsible for the delay in the U.S.-Taiwan arms sales over
the last seven years. Now, it is time to try to bring the issue to
a successful conclusion. The arms sales of eight items (plus the
procurement of the F-16 C/D fighter jets) are not only the Bush
Administration's most concrete legacy in U.S.-Taiwan security
cooperation but also the Ma Administration's trump in the short term
while it is actively improving relations with the Chinese Communists
as well as rebuilding mutual trust with the United States.
Furthermore, the way of handling and the final result of the arms
sales are also likely to cause great implication on how the next
U.S. President views the United States' overall strategic relations
with Taiwan. The Ma Administration, which is focusing on
cross-Strait relations now, must not be careless!"

YOUNG

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