Cablegate: Media Reaction: Obama's Announcement of the National
DE RUEHIN #1682/01 3380941
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 030941Z DEC 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0492
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8774
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0229
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001682
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: OBAMA'S ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE NATIONAL
SECURITY TEAM, U.S.-TAIWAN ARMS SALES
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage December 3 on the Cabinet's decision to allow four days off
for the New Year holiday; on the probe into former first family's
money laundering; and on the safety problems of the Maokong Gondola
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a column in the
centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" discussed U.S. President-elect
Barack Obama's newly-formed administration. The article said Obama
appears to be moving towards the center-right in terms of the United
States' foreign relations and national security. An editorial in
the conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post" not
only hailed Obama's decision to appoint Senator Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State but also expressed expectations regarding
Clinton's prospects. Regarding the United States' arms sales to
Taiwan, an op-ed in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei
Times" argued that the pricing of the United States' sale of the
Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missile defense system to Taiwan
was quite reasonable. The op-ed also urged that both Washington and
Taiwan build joint defenses against the military threats posed by
China. End summary.
3. Obama's Announcement of the National Security Team
A) Is Obama's Foreign [Policy] Moving towards the Center-Right?"
Columnist Lin Po-wen wrote in his column in the centrist,
KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 220,000] (12/3):
"... [U.S. President-elect] Barack Obama's campaign slogan was
'change,' but the team members he chose to be in charge of financial
and economic issues, foreign relations, and national security are
mainly former officials of the Clinton Administration, with the only
exceptions being Robert Gates and James Jones. Obama is
insufficiently experienced, and he needs to rely heavily on
experienced talents to promote change. Obama is a Wilsonist in
terms of foreign relations who advocates for democracy and
prevention of war; he is also an idealist who embodies a mixture of
liberalism, realism, and nationalism. The so-called 'Bushism,'
which emphasizes preemptive measures and the use of advanced
weaponry to carry out U.S. interests will soon be flushed down the
toilet. Two wars are looming ahead of him, and the latent risks in
South Asia and mainland China are far greater than the Middle East
and Iran's nuclear capabilities. It appears that in order to
demonstrate that the United States remains powerful and that he is
able to 'handle' all issues, Obama has no other option but to
construct a center-right path in terms of foreign relations and
national security. ... "
B) "Secretary of State Hillary"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (12/3):
"... We are glad to see the former rivals join the same team and
wish Senator Clinton all the best as she accepts the challenges that
face her after taking office as the next Secretary of State.
"We also hope that Clinton's experience in world affairs, gained
both as a senator and in eight years of being first lady of the
world's most powerful country, will be a plus to the untested
incoming U.S. president. ...
"As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton will have lots of hard work
ahead of her. Clinton will be faced with the daunting task of
attempting to restore America's image abroad after several years of
widespread distrust brought about by the U.S.-led invasion and
occupation of Iraq.
"The go-it-alone strategy followed by outgoing President George W.
Bush made many enemies in the world and also cost Washington a great
deal of friendship even with its closest allies such as France and
"Now that Obama has made history by becoming the first
African-American to take over the White House, Hillary Clinton has
gone ahead to make history by becoming the first ex-first lady to go
on to hold high office in a presidential administration. ...
"It is interesting to note that before the mid 20th Century,
Secretaries of State were largely regarded as potential successors
to their presidents. We wonder if Clinton might make history again
by going on to try and revive that political tradition."
4. U.S.-Taiwan Arms Sales
"Pricing Taiwan's Missile Defense"
John Tkacik, a senior research fellow in Asian studies at the
Heritage Foundation, opined in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (12/3):
"China's missile deployments against Taiwan are the single most
dangerous threat to the nation's sovereignty, yet some insist that
Taiwan either doesn't need the Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3)
missile defense system or that the US is trying to cheat Taiwanese
taxpayers with hidden PAC-3 price tags - or both. Both charges are
false and the latter borders on insulting.
"The fact is both Taiwan and the US have a vital interest in seeing
that PAC-3 ballistic missile defense systems are deployed in Taiwan
and neither can afford to allow political grandstanding to unhinge
the historic bilateral security relationship. Both Washington and
Taipei should approach the ongoing PAC-3 pricing consultations in a
spirit of cooperation, maturity and a sense of common vulnerability
to China's ever-expanding missile threat.
"There is much misinformation and disinformation about the PAC-3
sale. Two Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators, Shuai
Hua-min, a former army general, and Lin Yu-fang, said the U.S.
government has suddenly added US$800 million in hidden 'research and
development costs' to the PAC-3's US$3.1 billion price tag. Both
legislators are familiar with defense procurements, and both must be
aware that 'nonrecurring engineering' (NRE) costs are a fact of life
in every order for advanced US weapons systems. But the US$800
million fee quotd by the legislators seems very high and I suspect
it is exaggerated. ...
"The US has thus far only approved 330 PAC-3 missiles for Taiwan.
That must be seen as just the initial order given Taiwan's
requirement for more than 1,000 - a number that must be commensurate
with the Chinese deployments. Current pricing indicates that the
unit price of a PAC-3 is declining to an amount closer to the unit
costs of China's offensive missiles. ...
"In the grand scheme of things, the more than 1,300 missiles
deployed across the Taiwan Strait are a small part of Beijing's
overall economic as well as military ability to force or coerce
Taiwanese into unwilling decisions about their relationship with
China. But virtually all other tools of Chinese coercion can be
resisted for some time or involve protracted costs for Beijing.
Offensive missile attacks on Taiwan are virtually cost-free (except
for the sunk costs of the missiles themselves) and can harm Taiwan
in a matter of days. Taiwan, the US and the rest of Asia's
democracies have a vital interest in building defenses against that
"Unless, of course, Americans, Taiwanese and other Asians are
content with the idea of having China in charge."