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Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

310058Z Aug 05




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Major Chinese-language Taipei dailies
focused their coverage August 30 on local politics and
the surge in crude oil futures. Nonetheless, the pro-
independence "Liberty Times," Taiwan biggest daily,
spent half of its page five reporting on Taiwan's arms
procurements. The newspaper ran a news story that was
topped with the headline: "[Defense Minister] Lee Jye
promotes U.S. arms deal strenuously; `United States
sends cable to push me,' [Lee said.]" The newspaper
also reported that Taiwan Air Force plans to purchase
another 100 U.S. F-16 fighter jets to replace the F-5
fighter planes as Taiwan's Mirage 2000s will be stored
to reduce maintenance costs in 2010. The centrist
"China Times," on the other hand, carried a news
analysis by Washington correspondent Norman Fu
commenting on AIT's future operations. The article
said that former AIT Director Raymond Burghart will
soon be appointed as the new AIT Chairman and that
Burghardt will continue to reside in Hawaii while
incumbent [acting] AIT Managing Director Barbara
Schrage will be the key person to manage all the
regular work at AIT Washington headquarters. As a
result, Fu said, AIT will be run as "a two-horse-drawn
wagon from now on, unlike its past single-command
operational style."

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2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an
editorial in the limited-circulation, conservative, pro-
unification, English-language "China Post" proposed
that the U.S. arms procurements be put on hold for the
time being because selling arms to Taiwan, which is
governed now by a pro-independence government, is
counterproductive to maintaining the status quo in the
Taiwan Strait. The limited-circulation, pro-
independence, English-language "Taiwan News," on the
other hand, carried an exclusive interview with
Taiwan's Vice Minister of National Defense Michael Tsai
in which Tsai said he is willing to make more
concessions, if necessary, to ensure the passage of the
U.S. arms procurement bill. End summary.

A) "U.S. Should Hold Arms Deal"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language
"China Post" [circulation: 30,000] editorialized

"Washington appears desperate. It no longer hides its
impatience with Taiwan over the failure to conclude the
deal of a robust package of advanced weapons that
President Bush offered to sell in 2001.

"Obviously, there is a campaign to press Taiwan,
especially the opposition in the Legislative Yuan, to
approve funding of the purchase as soon as possible. .

"For more than a year, the opposition Kuomintang (KMT)
and its allies have used their slim legislative
majority to block the special NT$480 billion (US$16
billion) bill. Included in the arms package are eight
diesel-powered submarines, 12 anti-submarine aircraft
and six Patriot missile batteries.

"To Taiwan's people, the basic questions are: how many
Patriot interceptors are needed to offset the threat of
Beijing's 700 missiles, grown by at least 50 a year;
and how soon and how many submarines and anti-submarine
aircraft Taiwan can buy to match those already deployed
by Beijing, not to mention the enemy's size, strategic
resources and nuclear weapons.

"Selling arms to Taiwan now is counterproductive to
maintaining the status quo. When in the hands of a pro-
independence government, the weapons encourage
independence sentiments, raising tensions with Beijing.
But when they are in the hands of an anti-independence
government, they serve the purpose of deterring a
forced reunification under Beijing's terms. Beijing
has no timetable for unification but also no tolerance
for secession.

"The Taiwan status quo, cherished by all except the
independence activists, can be assured by neutralizing
the separatist movement, not by selling more arms to
anti-China administration. The arms deal should at
least be put on hold."

B) "Tsai Ready to Deal to Win Approval of Arms Package"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News"
[circulation: 20,000] carried an exclusive interview
with Vice Minister of National Defense Michael Tsai

"Having foundered in the Legislature for a year, the
multibillion U.S. dollar arms package appears set to
move forward ... . Tsai provided more details about the
shifting attitudes toward the arms package and the
reversal on how it should be funded during a recent
interview ...

"Taiwan News: Has the U.S. raised any complaints about
the arms purchase delay?

"Tsai: Let me be frank with you. The U.S. side is
quite disappointed. They don't understand why Taiwan
has yet to approve the purchase after seeking to obtain
the package for a long time. The inaction has prompted
the U.S. to doubt our resolution and seriousness to
defend the country. Some even wonder if Taiwan is
seeking to shift the burden of preserving cross-strait
peace to the U.S. That is not true, of course.
Defense Minister Lee Jye has reiterated that Taiwan's
armed forces will not hesitate to fight People's
Liberation Army, if necessary.

"Taiwan News: Will U.S.-Taiwan ties suffer if the
opposition-controlled Legislature refuses to approve
the arms package after all?

"Tsai: The arms package will not influence U.S.-Taiwan
ties, but I believe they will grow stronger if we buy
the weapons. The U.S. will have to help train
Taiwanese military officers on how to operate the
weapons after we purchase them.

"Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. is obligated
to help Taiwan defend itself. But we must not take
their help for granted and do nothing ourselves.

"Fortunately, polls show 65 percent of the people share
the need to maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait and 50
percent support reasonable arms purchases to achieve
that end. Although some 30 percent voice objection to
the arms procurement. I believe it's politically
motivated. With a majority of the public on our side,
I'm optimistic the arms purchase will not be held up in
the Legislature forever. ..."


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