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Cablegate: Media Reaction: The Lauching of Direct Charter Flights

VZCZCXYZ0006
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #0966/01 1850910
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 030910Z JUL 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9396
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8418
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9649

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000966

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: THE LAUCHING OF DIRECT CHARTER FLIGHTS
ACROSS THE STRAIT

Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage July 3 on the allegations surrounding Chang Chun-yen,
nominee for president of the Examination Yuan; on the university
entrance examination; and on the preparation for welcoming the
arrival of the first batch of mainland Chinese tourists' on July 4.
In terms of editorials and commentaries, an editorial in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" rebutted President Ma Ying-jeou's
remarks about China being both a threat and an opportunity and
criticized China for only being a threat and not an opportunity for
Taiwan. An editorial in the pro-unification "United Daily News"
expressed its optimistism about the launching of direct flights
across the Strait and the potential for Taiwan to become a hub in
the Asia-Pacific region. An editorial and an op-ed in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" both expressed
serious concern that China might adopt a "Trojan horse" strategy
against Taiwan by taking advantage of the launching of direct
charter flights across the Strait. End summary.

A) "What China Poses to Taiwan Is Only 'Threat,' Not 'Opportunity'"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000]
editorialized (7/3):

"... In general, what China poses to Taiwan is only 'a threat,'
definitely not 'an opportunity.' Regardless of China's
arbitrariness, the Ma [Ying-jeou] Administration still has fantasy
about China's 'goodwill.' President Ma regards China as 'a threat
as well as an opportunity' according his speech delivered at the
[graduation ceremony for] military institutions of higher learning
[on Wednesday]. In reality, in the Ma Administration's mind, China
is definitely not a threat but an opportunity. The reason that Ma
bracketed threat and opportunity together was just a way to deceive
the public. ..."

B) "From the Direct Flights across the Strait to the Platform of
Asia-Pacific"

The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (7/3):

"... There are two important meanings of the arrival of mainland
tourists via direct flights. First, it demonstrates that the
hostility across the Strait has decreased while the exchange has
increased. This is precious progress in terms of the psychology of
both the ruling and opposition parties across the Strait. Second,
as this article described, direct flights across the Strait have
finally made it possible for Taiwan to become a 'platform for
Asia-Pacific' by connecting with mainland China's transportation
links, plus other auxiliary measures. If there will be one day when
passengers on direct flights across the Strait are not only tourists
across the Strait, but also elites of several international
institutes plus international tourists, then it might be a symbol
that Taiwan's political and economic role and status have changed.
..."

C) "Has Ma Been Hypnotized on Defense?"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (7/3):

"... US Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia James Shinn
recently expressed concerns that the threat of a Chinese attack on
Taiwan has markedly increased in the past few years, as the balance
in the Taiwan Strait tilts toward Beijing.

"Unless it has been blinded by wishful thinking, the KMT government
must be aware of this. If it is not, then it needs to be reminded
that China's ultimate goal remains the same: annexation, whatever it
takes.

"Civilian flights could provide the Chinese military with the cover
it needs to penetrate Taiwanese airspace and launch a strike against
command-and-control infrastructure...

"In its haste to improve relations with Beijing, the KMT government
has undermined national security and - despite his calls for
military readiness yesterday - Ma has made it likelier that Taiwan
will be added to the inglorious list of countries that play down
feasible threats and suffer the consequences."

D) "This Is Not the Time for Complacency on Defense"

Chen Kuo-hsiung, Vice General-Secretary of the World United
Formosans for Independence and General-Secretary of the Taiwan
National Security Institute, opined in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (7/3):

"While the government has announced it would open up eight domestic
ACROSS THE STRAIT

airports to handle direct cross-strait chartered flights, China's
People's Liberation Army (PLA) and Civil Aviation Administration
held a military drill earlier last month at Shijiazhuang Airport,
Hebei Province, assessing eight civilian aircraft on long-range air
drops in emergency situations.

"This provided ample evidence that the apprehensions of national
security specialists that China could adopt a 'Trojan horse'
strategy against Taiwan were well founded. ...

"Philip Breedlove, vice director of the US' Joint Staff for
Strategic Plans and Policy, recently stated at a congressional
hearing that Beijing had completed required military preparations
and launched drills along the coastline across Taiwan prior to the
March presidential election in the eventuality that the Democratic
Progressive Party (DPP) candidate won the election and the UN
referendums passed.

"At the time, cross-strait relations were in such a precarious state
that the US Pacific Command dispatched three aircraft carriers - the
USS Kitty Hawk, the USS Nimitz and the USS Abraham Lincoln - to the
waters just outside the territorial waters in the Taiwan Strait.

"Sixty US warships and hundreds of combat aircraft also gathered in
the area, resulting in the largest deployment in the region since
the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis. The mobilization even dwarfed the
1996 crisis. This is evidence of the extent to which China covets
Taiwan and of the US government's determination to safeguard Taiwan.
...

"The Ma government's ambiguity on arms procurement, its aloofness in
its relations with the US and bellicose attitude vis-a-vis Japan
over the Diaoyutai islands incident - an indication of drifting
national strategy - have begun to erode the foundations of mutual
trust between the three countries. Little wonder that Robert
Shutter, a professor at Georgetown University who once worked for
the CIA, warned last month that Taiwan should make sure it fully
understands the fundamental interest of the US government. If the
government turns away from the US and curries favor with Beijing,
the US would not rule out achieving agreements with Beijing at the
expense of Taiwan.

"There is no national defense without psychological defense. The Ma
administration has failed to build such psychological protection
against China's military threat and has instead drawn close to China
without distinguishing between friend and foe.

"This shortcoming represents the biggest threat to Taiwan's national
sovereignty."

YOUNG

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