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Cablegate: Ait Director Exchanges Views On Democracy, Defense With

VZCZCXYZ0007
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #3141/01 2540930
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 110930Z SEP 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2068
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5639
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 6850

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 003141

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/TC, EAP/P, EAP/PD - DAVID FIRESTEIN
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A


TAGS: OPRC KPAO TW

SUBJECT: AIT DIRECTOR EXCHANGES VIEWS ON DEMOCRACY, DEFENSE WITH
TAIWAN TV EXECUTIVES


1. Summary: AIT Director Stephen M. Young hosted a luncheon Sept. 7
at his residence arranged by PAS for senior news executives of
Taiwan's six leading cable television news channels. The luncheon
was held to introduce Deputy Director Robert S. Wang and to exchange
views on major issues. The discussion on ranged from press freedom
in Taiwan to U.S.-Taiwan-China relations, the growth of democracy in
Taiwan, Taiwan's economic and political development, and the
immediate need for the island to provide for its own defense. End
summary.

2. Television is the most popular medium in Taiwan, and the cable
penetration rate here is about eighty-five percent, one of the
highest in the world. The six cable news channels represented at the
Director's luncheon reach most of the television news audience. The
six channels also represent both Blue and Green camps; one, ERA-TV,
claims to be neutral in Taiwan's politicized media environment. The
guests at the luncheon were:

Ms. May Chen (Chen Yi-mei), Senior Manager, TVBS
Ms. Ann Hu (Hu Wan-ling), Executive, General News Dept., Formosa TV
Mr. Liao Fu-shun, News Director, CTI-TV
Mr. Jason Ma (Ma Yong-jui), Executive Vice President, ETTV
Mr. Jeffrey Yen (Yen Chih-ching), Executive Vice President, ERA
Television
Mr. Yu Chao-Wei, News Manager, SET-TV

3. Those present also included Acting PAO David E. Miller. Topics
discussed during the 90-minute gathering touched on a wide range of
subjects: press freedom in Taiwan, U.S.-Taiwan-China relations, the
growth of democracy in Taiwan, Taiwan's economic and political
development, and the immediate need for the island to provide for
its own defense.

4. During the course of the luncheon, Director Young pointed out
that Taiwan and China have significantly improved their trade
relations in recent years. When one of the guests expressed the
frequently-heard concern that Taiwan's economic dependence on China
could hurt local businesses, Director Young noted that many Taiwan
companies, including flat TV panel maker Chi Mei, have managed to
maintain their competitiveness while diversifying their markets to
include China. Deputy Director Wang pointed out that not further
liberalizing would eventually undermine Taiwan's overall
competitiveness.

5. Participants agreed with Director Young that Taiwan's media,
which have enjoyed greatly increased freedom of speech and are known
for their intensive reports on Taiwan's democratic development and
criticism of government corruption, have even influenced mainland
Chinese viewers and even coverage of news by Chinese media.
Director Young, citing a recent decision by New York Yankees pitcher
Chien-ming Wang to boycott interviews by Taiwan media in a bid to
protect his family from further media harassment, engaged the
executives in a discussion of where the line on coverage should be
drawn. They agreed that the free-wheeling Taiwan press was often
intrusive, but also cited the pressure of ratings that drives their
operations.

6. At one point the luncheon discussion turned to the topic of U.S.
arms procurements by Taiwan. Responding to the comment that "Taiwan
needs tanks, but the U.S. wants to sell it boots," Director Young
emphasized Taiwan's need to ensure that it can provide for its own
defense. While Taiwan's lawmaking Legislative Yuan has blocked
passage of a military budget earmarked for arms procurements from
the United States since President Bush approved Taiwan's proposal in
2001, the island is seeing a widening military gap with China, which
has rapidly boosted its military capabilities in recent years. One
media executive, citing an unnamed Taiwanese military expert, said
Washington has not responded to Taipei's request for more advanced
weapons to fight possible cross-Strait electronic warfare. In
response, Director Young said that what the U.S. proposes to sell
takes into consideration Taiwan's overall defense needs, not just
individual weapons systems but all that goes with deploying them,
including software, hardening, a supply chain, secure communications
and training. He told the media executives the arms procurement
would offer Taiwan a good bargaining chip when facing a Chinese
military buildup that threatens regional stability. Director Young
also reminded them that Taiwan's arms purchases could face a changed
political environment in the United States, as mid-term elections
come this year and presidential elections come in 2008.

7. A discussion of the on-going movement calling for President Chen
Shui-bian to step down led Director Young to say that the U.S. hopes
the mass sit-in protest slated to begin Sept. 9 in Taipei would
proceed peacefully, as Taiwan has moved toward greater democracy.
He also proposed to meet with media executives again for more
dialogues in the future, and promised to consider their requests for
on-the-record interviews.


YOUNG

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