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Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Visa Waiver Program, U.S. Financial

VZCZCXYZ0003
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #1488/01 2940946
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 200946Z OCT 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0149
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8660
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0109

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001488

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. VISA WAIVER PROGRAM, U.S. FINANCIAL
CRISIS

1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused October
18-20 news coverage on the funeral of Formosa Plastics Group founder
Wang Yung-ching; on the DPP's planned rally on October 25 to protest
the Ma Ying-jeou Administration's "pro-China" policy and the
upcoming visit to Taiwan by China's Association for Relations across
the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin; on the continuing probe into
former first family's money laundering case; and on the Cabinet's
decision Sunday to extend for another week the limit on the daily
percentage drop it will allow in the stock market before the
government intervenes. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an
editorial in the conservative, pro-unification, English-language
"China Post" protested the U.S. government's recent decision to
"exclude" Taiwan from the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The
article said, "the U.S. has an obligation to reciprocate by
considering the inclusion of Taiwan in the VWP," as Taiwan "has long
granted visa-free entry to U.S. nationals coming for short business
or pleasure visits." An op-ed in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times," on the other hand, discussed the
U.S. financial crisis and its possible impact on Taiwan in
particular. The article said the U.S. "will find it harder to
denounce China for human rights abuses while simultaneously
expecting Beijing to keep buying US Treasury bills. If China's
ownership of U.S. debt exceeds a certain threshold, Beijing may even
hold veto power over US support for Taiwan, especially in a military
contingency across the Taiwan Strait." End summary.

2. U.S. Visa Waiver Program

"Taiwan Deserves Visa Waiver"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (10/19):

"On Friday, U.S. President George W. Bush announced the pending
inclusion of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Hungary, the Czech
Republic, Slovakia and South Korea in Washington's 'Visa Waiver
Program' (VWP). ... However, we were very disappointed to see
Washington did not include ROC passport holders in the VWP. Living
standards and income levels here in Taiwan are just as high, or even
higher, than many of the countries included on the VWP list. Due to
geopolitical realities, our government was not able to supply troops
for the U.S.-led War on Terror. However, our government has taken
numerous other steps to assist Washington in its struggle against
international terrorism, and the U.S. Congress has long regarded us
as a quasi-ally. According to media reports, the U.S. government is
still in the process of reviewing Taiwan's request to be included in
the VWP. It is our hope that this process of review, which mainly
focuses on the rate of refusal for visa applicants at the American
Institute in Taiwan (AIT), can be completed as soon as possible.
...

"These days it is rare to hear of any Taiwanese 'jumping the plane'
and overstaying their visitor visas in the United States, a
phenomenon that was still common as late as the 1980s. Indeed,
there are probably more than a few U.S. citizens who have overstayed
their visas here in Taiwan due to economic opportunities here. Now
that South Korea and Singapore are included in the VWP, Taiwan and
Hong Kong are the only remaining members of the 'Asian Tiger'
economies to be left off. Ideally, we want to see ROC passport
holders enjoying VWP status before the end of next year. ... If the
U.S. administration is not yet ready to grant ROC passport holders
visa-free status in the U.S. mainland now, it should accelerate its
review of a request by the state government of Hawaii to grant ROC
passport holders visa-free entry into the Aloha state, which is just
about eight hours' flying time from here. ...

"Taiwanese waiting in the long lines outside of AIT will surely be
frustrated and even a little angry to think that citizens of many
other countries with lower income levels are entering the U.S.
without visas. Washington also should not forget that our own
government has long granted visa-free entry to U.S. nationals coming
for short business or pleasure visits. The U.S. has an obligation to
reciprocate by considering the inclusion of Taiwan in the VWP."

3. U.S. Financial Crisis

"The Sino-US Reciprocal Relationship"

Holmes Liao, former adviser to Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
and adjunct professor at the War College, National Defense
University, opined in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei
Times" [circulation: 30,000] (10/19):

"Regardless of whether the massive US bailout of Wall Street with
huge capital injections into the banking system will work or not,
the world has seen the end of laissez-faire, free-market economies.
If the US financial and monetary systems are not salvaged or
partially rebuilt, the US may lose its credibility and status as a

financial superpower. ... What do all these events mean to
Taiwanese? Geopolitically speaking, the US will find it harder to
denounce China for human rights abuses while simultaneously
expecting Beijing to keep buying US Treasury bills. If China's
ownership of US debt exceeds a certain threshold, Beijing may even
hold veto power over US support for Taiwan, especially in a military
contingency across the Taiwan Strait.

"Taiwan lacks strategic thinking and appears rather weak and passive
in the face of the current financial crisis. Not surprisingly, the
nation was completely excluded from the recent 'ASEAN plus three'
conference - potentially the world's largest free trade zone - which
discussed concerted action to tackle the global monetary tsunami.
Taiwan is lucky Beijing hasn't attempted to acquire U.S. banks that
are on the verge of bankruptcy. If China were to acquire foundering
US banks, it would not only help Beijing gain inside knowledge of
the U.S. financial system, but would also dramatically reshape the
negative impression of China in the U.S. ...

"Taiwanese have long suffered from political-economic schizophrenia,
because we maintain that Taiwan is a sovereign country and
simultaneously conduct business and trade with China without
demanding the auspices of a sovereign nation. As we criticize the
U.S. for losing the moral high ground when it invaded Iraq, by a
similar token, it is illogical for Taiwan to expect the U.S. to
support its sovereignty while Taipei leans ever closer to Beijing."

YOUNG

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