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Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Presidential Election, Cross-Strait

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #1561/01 3090941
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 040941Z NOV 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0261
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8700
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0147

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001561

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. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, CROSS-STRAIT
RELATIONS, AND U.S. ARMS SALES TO TAIWAN

1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese and English-language dailies
continued to give significant news coverage November 4 to the
historic meeting between Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF)
Chairman P.K. Chiang and China's Association for Relations across
the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin in Taipei Monday; and
to the agreements that will be signed between SEF and ARATS Tuesday,
as well as the various demonstrations staged by the DPP. The
pro-unification "United Daily News" ran a banner headline on page
six reading "The United States: Exchange of Visits by
Ministerial-Level Economic and Trade Officials between the United
States and Taiwan to Be Resumed."

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a column in the
centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" discussed the U.S. presidential
election and possible U.S.-China trade and economic conflicts that
the newly elected U.S. president will confront. An op-ed piece in
the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times," written by
former AIT chairman Nat Bellocchi, now a special adviser to the
Liberty Times Group, said it will take some time after the new U.S.
president is elected before Taiwan can tell whether there will be
changes in U.S.-Taiwan relations. With regard to the cross-Strait
relations, an editorial in the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
lambasted the Ma Ying-jeou Administration's handling of the
SEF-ARATS talks as "disparaging Taiwan's national dignity,
abandoning Taiwan's sovereignty" and thus "humiliating the Taiwan
people." An editorial in the pro-independence, English-language
"Taiwan News" alleged that both Chen's Taiwan visit and China's
approval of Taiwan former Vice President Lien Chan's participation
in the APEC summit were the KMT Administration and the Chinese
government's plot to form an alliance, which will harm Taiwan and
eventually all of Asia. An editorial in the conservative,
pro-unification, English-language "China Post," however, said this
week's talks "will mark a significant step forward in cross-Strait
relations." A separate "Taipei Times" op-ed piece, written by U.S.
scholar Robert Sutter, discussed the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and
concluded that "conceivable options for the US to provide advanced
fighters to Taiwan seem very limited." End summary.

3. U.S. Presidential Election

A) "Obama and U.S.-China Economic and Trade Conflicts"

Deputy Editor-in-Chief Kuo Chen-lung wrote in the "International
Column" in the centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation:
220,000] (11/4):

"... As it stands now, no matter whether it is John McCain or Barack
Obama that is elected, there seems to be little difference in their
Asia-Pacific policies. The security issues have become less
important now, while economic and trade issues are very hot. Over
the past ten years, the fuels that could ignite security [problems]
in the Asia-Pacific region have been defused one by one: the Korean
Peninsula issue has been gradually put under control through joint
cooperation between the United States and China. As for the Taiwan
issue, which was originally the one that would most likely trigger
clashes [in the region], both Washington and Beijing struck a
consensus in dealing with it during Chen Shui-bian's term. Since Ma
Ying-jeou came to power, cross-Strait relations have embarked on
stable development, so the new U.S. president can leap over the
previously controversial Taiwan issue.

"No matter who is elected, the new U.S. president, [when mapping out
his] Asia-Pacific strategy, will have to face the rise of China and
develop the [United States'] strategic industry for the next stage
so as to outrun the other competitors in the Asia-Pacific region.
Moreover, he will have to strive for the cooperation of other
Asia-Pacific partners in order to get out of the financial storm and
economic recession. ... For the new U.S. president, China failed to
perform its duty when its economic and trade strength was on the
rise, and it has even threatened the United States, whether by
deliberately devaluing the Renminbi, 'stealing' Americans' jobs, or
ordering its sovereignty wealth funds wantonly to purchase U.S.
strategic assets. Even in the face of global warming and financial
meltdown, China has failed to make contributions as it was supposed
to. For the new U.S. president, one of his measures will be to
'navigate China's rise' by integrating the country into the global
regulatory system and encouraging it to obey rules that were set by
the United States and other Western countries.

"Next, [the new U.S. president] must speed up in signing free trade
agreements [FTAs] with Asia-Pacific nations, in particular, the
Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, which will soon be
won over by China via the 'ASEAN plus one.' The countries with
which the Bush Administration has completed signing [FTAs], such as
Singapore, Australia, and South Korea, are all key Asia-Pacific
allies that [Washington] can use to counterbalance China's
increasingly growing influence. Among these countries, Japan is the
most important. Following the trade clashes between the United

States and Japan at the end of the last century, the bilateral trade
relations have been in a state of serenity. But it also shows that
American businesses have lost their interest in the Japanese market
and have begun to turn to China and other Asia-Pacific countries,
where they see more profit. But for the United States, Japan
remains a pillar of stability in the Asia-Pacific area, which the
new U.S. president must not give up. ..."

B) "Only Time Will Tell on US Support for Taiwan"

Nat Bellocchi, former AIT chairman and now a special adviser to the
Liberty Times Group, opined in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (11/4):

"... During the upcoming months, Taiwanese will also continue to
focus their attention on the economy and on the efforts of the new
president to change their relationship with China. Any changes in
the US-Taiwan relationship, however, will not take place soon. ...
In the last two or three weeks, many have been discussing the
possibility of a cross-strait annexation of Taiwan by China as long
as there is no war in the Taiwan Strait. Others have talked about a
possible 'confederation' between China and Taiwan. Many others press
for an independent Taiwan, no matter how long it takes. Others talk
about the need for the continuation of strong relations with the US
and other East Asian countries, especially Japan. All of this will
continue up to and beyond the inauguration of the new US government
in January. Given the time it takes to engage in cross-strait talks,
not too much change will have taken place and all of us will have to
wait and see how cross-strait talks develop - and how the US handles
it."

4. Cross-Strait Relations

A) "Ma Ying-jeou Self-Disparages [Taiwan's] National Dignity;
Abandons Its Sovereignty; and Humiliates the Taiwan People"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000]
editorialized (11/4):

"... [Taiwan's President] Ma Ying-jeou self-disparaged [Taiwan's]
national dignity and abandoned [Taiwan's] sovereignty. Ma used the
excuse that [Chinese President] Hu Jintao received [Taiwan's Straits
Exchange Foundation Chairman] P. K. Chiang [in Beijing in June 2008]
to justify his meeting with [China's Association for Relations
across the Taiwan Strait Chairmen] Chen Yunlin, regardless of
whatever title by which [Ma] will be addressed. Ma even lied that
such a manner would be 'based on an equal footing.' Didn't Ma know
that the disagreement between both sides of the Taiwan Strait
nowadays lies in the fact that the other side does not recognize the
Republic of China? On the other hand, Taiwan has already recognized
the existence of the People's Republic of China. Therefore, the
issue of disparagement did not exist when the other side met with
Chiang. For our side's meeting with Chen, on the contrary, we have
to remove our national flags, and remove [Ma's official title of]
President. There are fundamental differences in the prerequisites.
Does Ma really have to meet with Chen? Can it be that the national
flags are only internal governance tools to differentiate
dissidents, while one feels inferior [with our own national flags]
when facing the motherland on the other side? It must be a
premeditated move rather than ignorance to invite such guests
collectively to humiliate the Taiwan people. ..."

B) "Lien's APEC Nod Is Taiwan's Trap"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (11/4):

"Combined with the current visit to Taiwan by People's Republic of
China envoy Chen Yunlin, the appointment of Chinese Nationalist
party (Kuomintang) honorary chairman Lien Chan as President Ma
Ying-jeou's representative to the informal leaders meeting of the
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Lima, Peru late next
month signifies the KMT government's acquiescence to Beijing's
suzerainty over Taiwan. ...

"Far from being a breakthrough, Lien's appointment marks less an
upgrade in Taiwan's international status but an award to the former
KMT chairman for his services to the Chinese Communist Party and the
common KMT-CCP cause of suppressing democracy and 'preventing
independence' in Taiwan. ... The combination of Chen Yunlin's visit
to Taiwan and Lien's appointment to the APEC meeting does not
signify a genuine peace between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait
but the cementing of an alliance between the two authoritarian
parties of the Chinese Nationalist Party and the Chinese Communist
Party that will be inimical to both Taiwan's independence and
democracy, the future development of democracy in China and Hong
Kong and Macau and indeed, Asia in general. ..."

C) "World Changed This Week"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (11/4):

"This week, the first of November 2008, will do down in history as
the week that formally revives Taiwan's normal relations with the
Chinese mainland after a six-decade estrangement. ... Chen and
Chiang met in Beijing in June for the first direct dialogue between
the two sides in ten years. This week's talks will mark a
significant step forward in cross-Strait relations and show concrete
progress after a scheduled meeting in Taipei in 1999 was scrapped
amid acrimony over sovereignty issues. The new agreements, widely
seen as a significant accomplishment of President Ma, will give a
major boost to Taiwan's economy and trade. Both sides have stressed
that politics do not feature on this week's agenda. Ultimately, the
Taiwan people's attention is on how the mainland visitor addresses
President Ma when the president receives him. If Chen doesn't
address President Ma by his official title, all the mutual goodwill
and efforts would amount to little, and cross-strait detente would
remain a pipe dream."

5. U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan

"F-16 Fighters -- Lost in the Shuffle?"

Robert Sutter, an American professor of the School of Foreign
Service in Georgetown University, opined in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (11/4):

"... Taiwan and China are maneuvering for advantage in the improved
cross-strait atmosphere. Economic and social contacts will advance
with the visit of Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait
(ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin to Taiwan. However, uncertainty clouds
the efforts to get China to ease diplomatic isolation and military
intimidation of Taiwan. Chinese officials don't move on these areas
because they are suspicious of Ma's willingness to consider
reunification and his defense plans that include advanced weapons,
notably F-16 fighters, from the US. ...

"The incoming administration, whether headed by Obama or McCain,
will take time - probably years - to build such a relationship with
Beijing. The past record shows that Chinese officials - in the
interim - will be extremely sensitive to policies of the new US
government toward Taiwan and will react very strongly to US arms
sales or other initiatives. Of course, the new US government may
decide to move ahead with F-16 sales anyway, but the resulting
uproar in China-US relations is probably the last thing an Obama or
McCain administration would seek in the midst of enormous US
problems at home and abroad that require extensive cooperation with
China. Meanwhile, defense specialists in Washington say that the US
ability to provide F-16s to Taiwan or any other country is scheduled
to end within a year as a result of the closing of the aircraft's
production line.

"Looking out, conceivable options for the US to provide advanced
fighters to Taiwan seem very limited. Providing Taiwan with US
fighters more advanced that the F-16s would risk such strident
Chinese reaction that even tough-minded US policymakers determined
to deter Chinese military intimidation of Taiwan are likely to
eschew the choice. They are more likely to make a virtue out of a
necessity and support the so-called "porcupine" strategy for
Taiwan's defense that emphasizes measures Taiwan can take for
self-defense that preclude use of advanced aircraft to take the
battle to the invading enemy across the Strait."

YOUNG

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