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Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-Taiwan Relations

VZCZCXYZ0008
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #3061/01 2490847
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 060847Z SEP 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1969
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5626
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 6833

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 003061

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - DAVID FIRESTEIN
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A


TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: U.S.-TAIWAN RELATIONS


1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies gave
significant coverage September 6 to a press conference hosted by
President Chen Shui-bian in Palau Tuesday, in which he talked about
former DPP Chairman Shih Ming-teh's campaign to oust him, the
controversial special state affairs expense account, the SOGO
Department Store gift certificates case, First Lady Wu Shu-chen's
jewelry assets report, and his son-in-law's criminal case. Both the
pro-status quo "China Times" and pro-unification "United Daily News"
carried similar front-page banner headlines saying that President
Chen has for the first time publicly acknowledged that other
people's invoices and receipts were used to claim reimbursement from
the Presidential Office's state affairs fund, and that the First
Family had "indirectly" accepted SOGO gift certificates from a
person involving in the controversial battle over the SOGO
Department Store ownership. The pro-independence "Liberty Times,"
Taiwan's biggest daily, however, ran a banner headline on page three
that read "Bian: Did Not Put State Affairs Fund into Personal
Pockets."

The "China Times" and the "United Daily News" also each carried on
their inside pages the results of their separate surveys about Shih
Ming-teh's campaign to oust President Chen. The "China Times" poll
showed that 43 percent of those polled support Shih's campaign, but
only 8.3 percent believe it would succeed in bringing Chen down.
The "United Daily News" survey reported that 44 percent of
respondents said they support Shih's rally, while 76 percent believe
Chen would not step down because of this campaign.

2. The Chinese-language papers editorialized on Taiwan's economic
situation and the role of prosecutors and auditors in the
controversial state affairs fund case. An editorial in the
limited-circulation, pro-independence, English-language "Taipei
Times" discussed KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's leadership, saying that
with the upcoming campaign to oust President Chen and the U.S. arms
procurement bill to be reviewed in September, the next few weeks
could prove to be a make-or-break period for Ma and his presidential
aspirations. An editorial in the limited-circulation, conservative,
pro-unification, English-language "China Post," on the other hand,
discussed the possible benefits for American businesses if a free
trade agreement is signed between the U.S. and Taiwan. End
summary.

A) "Arms Bill Is Ma's Next Test"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (9/6):

"The next few weeks could prove to be a make or break period for
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou and his
presidential aspirations. With former Democratic Progressive Party
chairman Shih Ming-teh's anti-Chen sit-in revealing decision-making
ineptitude caused by a conflict of interest and an overwhelming
desire to please everyone, any more vacillating during the course of
the protest could further expose the weakness of Ma's position. An
even sterner test of his leadership lies just around the corner when
the new legislative session begins on Sept. 19 - passage of the long
delayed special arms procurement bill. ...

"Only a dramatic shift in posture by the KMT legislative caucus will
secure the passage of the bill, and Ma, as party chairman, is the
one charged with prompting this shift. ... Indeed, concerns about
US relations and his aim of winning the presidency in 2008 are
probably the rationales behind the 'reasonable arms purchase'
doctrine that Ma has preached over the last year. To satisfy
Taiwan's main ally and enhance his appeal to moderate voters that
value close US ties, reject unification with China and would like
Taiwan to maintain a defense capability, Ma needs to ensure the
passage of the bill. ..."

B) "FTA: What's in It for America?"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (9/6):

"A free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States is a much
desired policy aim in Taiwan. It would increase Taiwan's trade and
bind the island more closely to the U.S., Taiwan's most important
ally - even if formal links are lacking. But what is in it for
Americans? This, after all, is what will carry weight with
Washington. ... Indeed, the U.S. exports more to Taiwan than to
Australia, Chile, and Singapore, all of which now enjoy FTAs.
Despite increasing economic links between Taiwan and China, the U.S.
remains the largest investor in Taiwan, while the latter is a
sizable investor in America. ...

"Intellectual property is a headache in U.S. trade with Beijing. An
FTA also would provide an opportunity to better protect intellectual
property, a significant boon to U.S. firms. ... Unfortunately,
opposition to free trade is rising in Washington, even among
Republicans. However, the benefits of moving ahead with a
U.S.-Taiwan FTA are too great to ignore. The issue is geopolitics
as well as economics. Since 'the great game' with China already has
begun, Washington needs to use all the tools at its disposal to
enhance its regional influence. ..."

YOUNG

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