Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-Taiwan Relations
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TAIPEI 003826
DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/RSP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD -
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: U.S.-TAIWAN RELATIONS
A) "A-bian's Pledge"
Washington correspondent Vincent Chang said in the
conservative, pro-unification "United Daily News"
". President Chen immediately reiterated his `four
No's' pledge in response to the State Department's
concerns. The Chen Shui-bian administration has
obviously discovered that unlike the past four years,
the Bush administration in its second term will no
longer tolerate Chen's willful remarks or behaviors
that cause him to constantly step on the red line and
trespass the bottom line set by Washington.
"Yes, the bottom line has emerged. Washington has put
all the pledges that Chen has made over the past four
years together and woven them into a big net.
Washington will cast the net over Chen, lock him up and
push him back every time when it feels that Chen has
crossed the boundary of `Chen's pledge' as interpreted
by the Americans. It looks like the United States will
not act carelessly or hesitate to inflict punishment
against Chen's move this time. .
"Having served as president for four years, Chen has
grown accustomed to using the game of words to test
Washington's bottom line, and he seems to quite enjoy
doing so. The Taiwan people have long become used to
Chen's being a chameleon all the time and throwing out
one promise after another. What's quite unexpected is
that the Americans take Chen's pledge seriously and ask
him to stick to it. Now the ever-changing A-bian has
forced the Bush administration to show all its cards
regarding the Taiwan policy. As a result, Chen has
also exhausted all the flexibility and space that
Taiwan used to enjoy and left no room for vagueness.
"This is something probably Chen has never expected."
B) "Military Mutual Trust and Political Mutual Trust"
Journalist Wu Ming-chieh noted in the centrist, pro-
status quo "China Times" (12/2):
"Since the end of last year, misunderstanding caused by
lack of mutual trust between the United States and
Taiwan has, several times, brought bilateral relations
to an impasse. But on the other hand, the mutual trust
with regard to military between the two sides has been
enhanced rather than been reduced. Judged from this
perspective, [it is evident that] Washington's current
policy toward Taiwan is to separate politics with
military. Nonetheless, strengthening military mutual
trust between Washington and Taipei is still in the
United States' interests for the time being, but
building political mutual trust has become a burden for
the United States. It remains to be seen whether these
two kinds of mutual trust will affect each other in the
"Over the past year, Taiwan and the United States have
maintained stable military exchanges even when both
sides did not have sufficient political mutual trust.
Obviously there is a certain force inside the United
States that supports Taiwan security. The foundation
of such a force comes from the thinking that to
maintain Taiwan's security is to maintain the United
States' national interests. Even though Taiwan can
make use of this force in exchange for military
bargaining chips to advance its self defense, it might
end up in gaining nothing either politically or
militarily if it hopes to use this bargaining chip to
alter Washington's thinking about the Taiwan policy -
namely, to renounce `one China' policy or to accept
Taiwan independence. ."
C) "An Independent Sovereign State Should Have the
Autonomy to Either Institute or Amend Its Constitution"
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" commented in an
"[State Department Spokesman] Richard Boucher said `our
primary interest is in maintaining stability across the
Taiwan Strait, and the United States is opposed to any
unilateral steps that would change the status quo.' `We
are opposed to any referendum that would change
Taiwan's status or move towards independence.'
Boucher's remarks showed that Washington is concerned
about Taiwan's push for constitutional reform because
it misunderstands Taiwan's plan for a new constitution
and thinks it is a referendum that will move toward
independence. Also, Washington's misjudgment of the
cross-Strait situation makes it believe that Taiwan
wants to change the status quo, a move that might lead
to escalated tension across the Taiwan Strait. But in
reality, Washington's doubts about President Chen's
timetable for the new constitution is totally
unnecessary. First, we have emphasized repeatedly that
following several decades' of democratization and
localization, ... Taiwan is already an independent
sovereign state. It does not need to seek to confirm
its independent status by a referendum or a new
constitution. . The plan to give birth to a new
constitution is actually a movement to make Taiwan a
normal country. The making of a timely, relevant and
viable constitution will make Taiwan a country worthy
of its name.
"The goal for Taiwan's plan to institute a new
constitution is to `de-Sanitize,' to get rid of
everything that was made by the KMT, and to be a
normalized country. This is an internal restructuring
of Taiwan's constitutional system and also a
manifestation of Taiwan people's consciousness of their
sovereignty. The move will not jeopardize any other
countries' interests and is unrelated to the
international situation. Thus, why do people outside
Taiwan worry that it will unilaterally change the
status quo and trigger tension across the Taiwan
D) "US Need Not Rein in Chen"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times"
"US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said
recently he thinks President Chen Shui-bian should
clarify whether his latest statements about a
referendum and a new constitution violate his `four
no's' pledge. .
"As the US is unable to distinguish between the
political parties here, it is only natural for them to
try to put down the brakes on referendum talk, and try
to cool things down in order to avoid further tension
in cross-strait relations.
"So has Chen overstepped his boundaries? Judging from
his inauguration speeches in 2000 and this year, as
well as the '10 points' he made during a speech last
month, he seems to be standing firmly on his promise
not to declare independence, change the national flag
or title, or hold a referendum on unification or
independence. But he has also promised the people of
Taiwan a suitable new constitution during his term -
and that it will be decided via a referendum. At a
quick glance, these two promises seem to be
contradictory, but a more thorough look reveals his
advocacy of amending the Constitution as being on the
safe side of the US' `bottom line.'
"First, the Constitution in its current form was
created in China, in 1947. It is a Constitution aimed
at ruling the vast territories and population of China,
Tibet and Mongolia, and as such it is of course
unsuitable to the territory and people currently under
its jurisdiction. .
"Second, in his May 20 inauguration speech, Chen stated
specifically that since there was no domestic consensus
over what to do about the national flag, national title
and the territories mapped out by the Constitution,
these would not be subject to amendment. As the
symbols of the nation are not to be included in the
discussions over constitutional amendments - and any
amendment will be confined to restructuring the
administrative and political system - then clearly Chen
has not gone beyond the parameters set by the US. .
"The DPP advocates a constitutional amendment that will
retain the country's national emblems, while the Taiwan
Solidarity Union advocates the creation of a new
constitution for the nation of Taiwan. Because of this
divergence over amendments and the creation of a new
constitution, Chen and former president Lee Teng-hui
have aired their differences publicly. Washington
should not confuse the proposals of the DPP and the
TSU, even though they are both a part of the pan-green
"Every country needs to make adjustments to its laws in
response to a changing environment. Although Taiwan's
international situation is unusual and its often finds
itself under international scrutiny, it retains the
right to build a political system adapted to its needs,
so long as this action does not negatively impact its
security and that of the international community."
E) "Warning from the U.S."
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language
"China Post" editorialized (12/2):
". Although neither he [i.e. President Chen Shui-bian]
nor the others in his administration explicitly
mentioned it, the plan [to put a new constitution for
Taiwan to a referendum in 2006] would amount to the
declaration of Taiwan independence. If implemented, it
would be the realization of a long cherished goal of
"The goal has proved unrealistic after all. He had no
sooner announced his plan than the U.S. State
Department issued a warning that made him back away. .
"Only the most nave will believe those denials. The
experts in the U.S. State Department certainly won't be
fooled. Washington have [sic] obviously seen through
Chen. In late October, Secretary of State Colin
Powell, during a visit to Asia, said straightforwardly
that `Taiwan is not independent. .'
"The U.S. government's China policy used to be
purposely fuzzy. Powell's statement represented a
clear departure from that long-time stand. It is an
indication that the U.S. government has grown tired of
Chen's persistent pursuit of Taiwan independence, which
has made the Taiwan Strait a trouble spot.
"The Chen administration will only suffer more
humiliations if it continues to make aggressive efforts