Cablegate: Representative Engel Meets Taiwan Officials
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P 260257Z AUG 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9836
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RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 9769
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RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 1398
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0006
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 2218
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 6779
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHHJJAA/JICPAC HONOLULU HI
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TAIPEI 001270
STATE PASS TO HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE ENGEL
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CH ECON MARR PGOV PREL TW
SUBJECT: REPRESENTATIVE ENGEL MEETS TAIWAN OFFICIALS
REF: TAIPEI 01259
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.
1. (SBU) Summary. Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY)
discussed U.S.-Taiwan relations, cross-Strait relations, and
Taiwan's foreign policy in separate meetings on August 19-20
with Legislative Yuan (LY) Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, Mainland
Affairs Council (MAC) Chairperson Lai Hsin-yuan, Straits
Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman P.K. Chiang, Foreign
Minister Francisco Ou, and Vice Defense Minister Admiral Lin
Jan-yi. (Rep. Engel's meeting with President Ma Ying-jeou is
reported reftel.) End Summary.
LY Speaker: Ma Working Hard to Restore Trust
2. (SBU) In his August 20 meeting with Rep. Engel,
Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (KMT) noted that the
Ma administration was working hard to restore mutual trust to
the U.S.-Taiwan relationship. Wang's impression during his
recent travels to D.C. and New York was that, since Ma's
election, the U.S.-Taiwan relationship had begun to recover
from the tensions that prevailed under Chen Shui-bian. Wang
said he had met with the foreign affairs advisors of both
U.S. presidential candidates and both assured him that U.S.
support for Taiwan would remain strong.
3. (SBU) Responding to Wang's pitch on arms sales,
Congressman Engel said that, if and when the administration
presented Congress with the request, he would support it.
Wang said Speaker Pelosi expressed similar support during
their meeting in D.C. Although Engel hoped the package would
reach Congress by the end of the year, the presidential
election could politicize the process and create delays.
Wang also pitched an FTA, arguing that, because Taiwan's
meaningful participation in multilateral economic
organizations was limited, it needed to look to bilateral
agreements with various countries. Thus, while Wang voiced
support for the TIFA, he noted that Taiwan would prefer to
conclude an FTA with the United States - not least because it
would encourage other countries to do the same. Responding
to Wang's observation that FTAs were not always popular in
the Democratic Party, Engel said his primary concern was that
FTAs ensure fair trade and, as such, included labor and
4. (SBU) Wang, just back from a trip to Tokyo, said
Japan-Taiwan relations had deteriorated markedly under Ma.
He attributed this to conflict over the sovereignty of the
Daoyutai (Senkaku) Islands and Japan's distrust of Ma's
intentions. He remarked that the Japanese felt the KMT's
harsh treatment of Koh Se-kai, the former Taiwan
Representative to Japan, reflected the Ma government's
attitude toward Japan itself. It did not help that after Koh
was recalled in June, a new representative (John Feng) was
not named until August 19. Wang said a key goal of his
trip was to help alleviate tension in the relationship.
MAC and SEF: Reducing Tensions and Looking Ahead to Talks
5. (SBU) Rep. Engel inquired about cross-Strait relations
in his meeting with Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairman
Lai Hsin-yuan on August 19. Lai expressed no concern about
her ability to function as the highest profile DPP member of
the Ma team. Lai reaffirmed the "Three No's" (No
unification, no independence, no use of force) and explained
the reasons behind the efforts by the Ma administration to
improve cross-Strait relations, emphasizing the need to
maintain peace and stability and reduce tensions. On the
economic front, Lai acknowledged China enjoys more benefits
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from cross-Strait ties than Taiwan does and lamented Taiwan
has yet to make the best of these ties. Lai looks forward to
policy deregulation that will allow mainland investment in
Taiwan and pave the way for Taiwan businessmen to channel
their mainland profits back to Taiwan.
6. (SBU) Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chair P.K Chiang
told Rep. Engel on August 19 that he expected the upcoming
SEF-ARATS negotiations in Taipei to result in specific
agreements on more direct charter flight routes, daily
charter flights, air cargo and parcel post shipments and
maritime shipping. Chiang said that he wasn't sure if the
two sides can reach agreement on daily scheduled flights.
FM: Ma Foreign Policy on the Right Track
7. (SBU) Rep. Engel and FM Francisco Ou discussed foreign
policy issues, focusing on developments in Latin America in
their August 20 meeting. Noting his long-term support for
Taiwan, Rep. Engel pointed out that the U.S. and Taiwan share
the same values of democracy, freedom, and human rights, a
striking contrast to China. Rep. Engel stressed the
importance for Beijing to understand the strong U.S.
commitment to Taiwan, adding that he would urge the new U.S.
president, whoever is elected, to reaffirm this commitment.
In a review of political developments in Latin America, Rep.
Engel noted China's increasing influence and presence and
also expressed concerns about Iran's activities in the
region. Ou expressed confience that Taiwan's new diplomatic
policy under the Ma administration was on the right track,
saying he believed a "diplomatic truce" with Beijing is
feasible because it met the interests of both sides.
Democratic values are Taiwan's most important international
asset, Ou said. Noting Taiwan's significant diplomatic
presence in Latin America, Ou expressed appreciation for Rep.
Engel's support with respect to the region.
VMOD: Seeking Movement on Arms Packages
8. (SBU) Rep. Engel and Vice Defense Minister Admiral Lin
Jan-yi discussed arms packages and the China-Taiwan-U.S.
military context on August 20. ADM Lin thanked Congressman
Engel for his continued support of Taiwan and for being one
of the signatories on the letter to President Bush pushing
for movement on what he termed the "stalled" arms packages.
ADM Lin stressed the importance of the arms for the defense
of Taiwan. Lin expressed the view that China's recent
military expansion testified to China global intentions,
since it was much greater than needed for a Taiwan
contingency. Congressman Engel agreed and said that, while
the United States seeks cordial relations with China, the
United States must also be prepared for an adversarial
relationship. Taiwan was determined to defend itself, Lin
said. Taiwan needed to remain strong to prevent war, he
added, but would not provoke war or fire the first shot.
Congressman Engel expressed concern regarding the available
days in the current Congressional calendar for notification
of the arms packages. In reaffirming his support for U.S.
arms sales to Taiwan, Congressman Engel also indicated
concurrence with President Ma's position that Taiwan needs a
strong defense in order to negotiate with China from a
position of strength.
9. (U) Congressman Engel did not have an opportunity to
clear this cable.