Cablegate: Media Reaction: South Ossetia, President Ma Ying-Jeou's


DE RUEHIN #1201/01 2251018
R 121018Z AUG 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused August
12 news coverage on Taiwan tennis player Lu Yen-hsun, who defeated
six-seeded Andy Murray of Great Britain in the first round of the
Olympic tennis match Monday; on President Ma Ying-jeou's first trip
overseas and his transit stops in the United States; and on the
results of the senior high school entrance exams island-wide.

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a column in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" discussed the war in South Ossetia
and called it a golden opportunity for Russia to restore its
national prestige. A column in the centrist, KMT-leaning "China
Times" also commented on the cause of the conflict between Georgia
and Russia. The article said Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili
misjudged the possible reactions of the United States and Western
countries toward the conflict and has thus put Georgia in an
embarrassing predicament. An editorial in the conservative,
pro-unification, English-language "China Post" said even with
Russia's strong support, South Ossetia's independence does not
assure peace and stability. With regard to President Ma Ying-jeou's
first overseas trip to Paraguay and the Dominican Republic, an
editorial in the pro-independence "Taiwan News" said Ma's
"ultra-low-profile" transit in the United States will not benefit
Taiwan's national dignity and visibility at all. End summary.

3. South Ossetia

A) "A Small War in Caucasus"

Columnist Antonio Chiang commented in his column in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000] (8/12):

"... For the United States, Georgia is an important pawn in the
Caspian Sea and in the Caucasus, while South Ossetia is located on a
major route for energy source transportation. In order to prevent
NATO from expanding eastward, Russia has been offering full support
for this small country seeking independence, so that it can restrain
Georgia easily. Even though Georgia was the home of Joseph Stalin,
it has deep hatred of the former Soviet Union; as a result, it has
become Georgia's only choice to tilt toward the United States. It
is interesting, however, to note the public relations strategies
adopted by the United States and Russia [toward this matter]. As it
stands now, Washington's keynote position is to maintain the
territorial integrity of Georgia, while Moscow said it supports the
democratic principles of independence and freedom. Washington's and
Moscow's positions on this matter are exactly opposite to their
respective positions over Kosovo's independence. ...

"For Russia, this is a golden opportunity for it to restore its
national prestige. The Caucasus, the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea
are all important energy and strategic sites, on which Moscow will
not allow Washington to encroach. But the war will not last long,
or the ethnic and religious conflicts in the Caucasus will be
rekindled again -- a development that will certainly put Russia in
an unfavorable position. ..."

B) "Georgia's Misjudgment in Attacking South Ossetia"

The "International Lookout" column in the centrist, KMT-leaning
"China Times" [circulation: 250,000] wrote (8/12):

"... The reason why Russia waged a war [against Georgia] on such a
scale is to punish someone as a warning to others; it meant to make
a statement to those former Soviet Union countries which tend to be
attracted by the West that Georgia has committed something that
violates Russia's interests, so Russia retaliated against it by use
of force. [Russia also meant to warn] other countries such as
Poland and Czech Republic that if they commit something beyond
Russia's tolerance, it will use force against them as well. In the
meantime, [Russia] is telling the West that it has special interests
in the [Caucasus] region that must not be overlooked, the same way
the United States does to Latin America. ...

"What Georgia has anticipated is that in the wake of the war, with
the intervention of the United States and the European Union,
Russia, which has become a party in the conflict, will not be the
peacekeeper [in the region] following the ceasefire. [Georgia also
hopes that] it will be either NATO or the European Union that will
maintain peace between Georgia and Russia, rather than having Russia
maintain peace between Georgia and South Ossetia. Nevertheless,
[Georgia] has overlooked the international status of Russia, which
will certainly not tolerate seeing its status fall to such a
condition. It may well be asked: which Western countries,
particularly those in Europe, would be willing to take the risk of
engaging in conflict with Russia directly by supporting a small
country, whose interests they are not directly involved in? In what
way are they going to support it? It will not work in the United
Nations. Neither will NATO's intervention nor a boycott by the
European Union will work."

C) "Caucasus Plagued by Wars"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (8/12):

"While the Games for Peace and Harmony were about to begin on Friday
evening in Beijing, fighting erupted in the Caucasus between
Georgian attackers and Russian defenders over control of the South
Ossetia region in Georgia. ... Like Kosovo's independence from
Serbia with strong U.S. support, South Ossetia's independence from
Georgia with strong Russian support, does not assure peace and
stability, not to mention prosperity, for its people and the

4. President Ma Ying-jeou's Overseas Trip

"Ma to Face First Diplomatic Test"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (8/12):

"... Naturally, the attention of the Taiwan media will be riveted on
the transit stops in the United States, especially since the KMT in
opposition had claimed that tight restrictions imposed on Chen's
activities in his transit stops were due to the DPP president's
'trouble-making' that had 'wrecked' trust between Washington and
Taipei. Whether Ma will secure any more dignified transit treatment
from Washington is open to question, especially since the dignity
and visibility of his visit is sharply self-discounted by his
arriving on scheduled commercial flights instead of on a national
carrier special flight.

"The fact that Ma has already been mocked by some international
media as 'the invisible president' is a sign that such
ultra-low-profile arrangements may comfort Washington and Beijing
but will not benefit Taiwan's own national dignity and visibility
regardless of whom Ma meets or converses with in private in Los
Angeles, Austin or San Francisco. In sum, whether Ma is able to
retain ties with Paraguay and complete his first presidential
excursion with dignity will be decisive for establishing his
credibility as Taiwan's national leader at home and abroad."


© Scoop Media

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