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

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #0999/01 1910904
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 090904Z JUL 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9450
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8429
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9657

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000999

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

1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused their
June 9 news coverage on the plummeting Taiwan stock index; on the
controversy over the construction of the Suhua Freeway; and on the
screening process of the Examination Yuan candidates nominated by
President Ma Ying-jeou. Both the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
and the pro-unification "United Daily News" reported on their inside
pages on a speech by U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for
International Trade Christopher A. Padilla at the American
Enterprise Institute Monday, in which he declined to reply whether
the United States will negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with Taiwan
but emphasized that Washington will deal with trade issues vis--vis
Taiwan through the mechanism of APEC.

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a "Liberty Times"
editorial discussed China's approach of using its relations with the
United States to 'pull Washington to its side to restrain Taiwan.'
The article also criticized the Ma Ying-jeou Administration's
cross-Strait policy, saying Beijing has seen through Ma's guiles in
defending Taiwan. A "United Daily News" op-ed piece urged the Ma
Administration to send high-ranking national security officials to
the United States and express clearly Taiwan's interest in buying
weapons from the United States. An op-ed piece in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times," written by a
Western commentator, suggested that Ma follow a more prudent
approach in terms of his cross-Strait policy. End summary.

A) "China Has Seen through Ma Ying-jeou's 'Determination to Defend
[Taiwan]'"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000]
editorialized (7/9):

"... As a result, the way China imposes pressure on Taiwan has
constantly been done via its relations with the United States. In
other words, for China, the most effect way to put pressure on
Taiwan is not to intimidate Taiwan directly but to 'draw Washington
to its side to restrain Taiwan.' The most evident case was Taiwan's
UN referenda held in tandem with this year's presidential election.
China had tried every way it could to obstruct the referenda from
passing but, in the meantime, it was afraid that open and flagrant
intimidation would arouse strong aversion among the Taiwan people
and thereby create a bad influence on the campaign of the
presidential candidate that it preferred. As a result, China used
its relations with the United States and asked the latter to impose
pressure on Taiwan. Under the approach of 'pulling Washington to
its side to restrain Taiwan,' China did not have to accomplish its
evil purpose toward Taiwan directly and could let the Taiwan people
vent their anger on the United States. It was a dual gain for
Beijing.

"Such a change in China's diplomatic strategy has done as much harm
to Taiwan as military intimidation would do. But the trick of
hiding evil behind one's smile has slackened the sense of crisis of
many [Taiwan] people. What is even more regrettable is that the Ma
Administration, which has been enthusiastic about the one-China
consensus, has not only turned a blind eye [to Beijing's guiles],
but in order to beg China to open direct charter flights and allow
its people to tour Taiwan, it has also requested that Washington
shelve its arms sales [to Taiwan] so as not to sabotage the
atmosphere for the talks between Taiwan's Straits Exchange
Foundation and China's Association for Relations across the Taiwan
Strait. Judging from such a development, it appears that the
so-called 'no use of force' advocated by President Ma, who calls for
ultimate unification [with China], is not to demand that China
renounce its use of force against Taiwan but to disarm the island
itself and adopt an inactive attitude toward weaponry procurement.
..."

B) "Truth about Shelving [U.S.] Arms Procurements Remains
Mysterious; Long Delay Usually Means Many Problems"

Professor Edward Chen of Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of
American Studies opined in the pro-unification "United Daily News"
[circulation: 400,000] (7/9):

"U.S. officials said lately that the shelving of [U.S.] arms sales
to Taiwan was a request made by the Taiwan side, but Taiwan's
national security officials have recently told the U.S. State
Department via a formal channel that it 'has no intention to suspend
the arms deal.' All of a sudden, it has become an unsolved puzzle
as to whether it is Washington that wanted to shelve the arms sales
to Taiwan or it was Taiwan that has proactively requested a delay in
the arms procurements. ... Is such a development a result of
miscommunication between the high-ranking national security
officials of Taiwan and the United States, or is it because AIT or
State Department officials have been misinformed and thus misled?
Or is it because Washington regards Taipei's concerns over the
impact of arms procurements on cross-Strait talks as a kind of
'hint' by Taipei to shelve the arms deal?


"Regardless, there is really no reason for Taipei to shelve the arms
procurements. First, Ma Ying-jeou's statement in his inaugural
speech that he will raise Taiwan's defense budget to three percent
of the island's GDP was a clear response to the United States'
expectations that Taiwan should strengthen its national defense. ...
Fifth, the chances are slim that Taipei is not aware that if it
postpones its arms procurements proposal until after the Olympic
Games, the U.S. presidential election will be entering the last
stage of the campaign. Approximately one-third of the Senators and
all House representatives will devote themselves to campaigning for
re-election. It is thus likely that the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan
will be postponed until January 2009. When that time arrives,
President George W. Bush, who has always hoped to sell many weapons
to Taiwan, might become discouraged and leave the decision of the
arms sales to the new president. Sixth, if John McCain is elected
the next U.S. president, he will perhaps follow Bush's previous
decision, but should Barack Obama be elected, it is likely that the
U.S. arms sales policy toward Taiwan will be changed greatly. ...

"Thus, to prevent the many problems that may be caused by such a
delay, the Taiwan government, in addition to stating more clearly
[to Washington] that Taiwan's arms procurement policy remains
unchanged, should also send high-ranking national security officials
to the United States to secure the deal."

C) "Ma Must Build Position of Strength"

Gerrit van der Wees, editor of "Taiwan Communique," a
Washington-based publication, opined in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (7/9):

"... First, the Ma administration did not attempt to achieve any
consensus in Taiwan before recklessly rushing ahead into its
adventure with China. ... Second, the Ma administration has hitched
itself inextricably to the goodwill of the Beijing regime. He has
mentioned the reduction of the missile threat and more
"international space" for Taiwan as desirable, but he has little
leverage. If Beijing doesn't deliver or only makes token moves, Ma
has little room to maneuver and is dead in the water. Third, Ma has
zigzagged on the issue of arms sales from the US. There were earlier
reports that right after the inauguration the Ma administration had
urged the US to slow down the timing of the notifications of arms
sales. Subsequent reports indicated that the Ma administration had
not initiated a freeze in the sales. Be that as it may, the fact
remains that from 2002 to last year, the KMT opposition did
everything possible to sabotage the US-offered arms package by
blocking even a discussion in the Legislative Yuan, thereby
undermining Taiwan's security.

"Fourth, by allowing Taiwan to drift into China's orbit and sphere
of influence, the US risks losing an important friend and ally in
the region. Taiwan's strategic location astride the major sea lanes
from Japan and Korea to Southeast Asia makes it an important asset
in support of free shipping and free trade. The US needs to set
clear markers and red lines that - if crossed - would represent a
threat to US interests. Fifth, by linking Taiwan's economy so much
closer to China's, Ma has placed Taiwan at risk of being pulled down
in the event of a severe downturn in the Chinese economy. ...

"So, if Ma is wise, he would follow a more prudent approach, based
on first developing an internal consensus in Taiwan on how to move
ahead, consultations with the US and Japan on security and strategic
boundary conditions, and diversifying Taiwan's economic and
political links with the international community. Only if he works
along these lines will he be able to negotiate from a position of
strength. The present approach will only lead to Taiwan being pushed
into a corner from which it will be very difficult to extract
itself. The Taiwanese people who have worked so hard for democracy
deserve better."

YOUNG

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