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Cablegate: Media Reaction: President Chen Shui-Bian's Constitutional

VZCZCXYZ0004
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #3337/01 2700902
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 270902Z SEP 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2336
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5708
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 6922

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 003337

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: PRESIDENT CHEN SHUI-BIAN'S CONSTITUTIONAL
REFORM PROPOSAL

1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies continued to
center their September 27 reporting on Premier Su Tseng-chang's plan
to confer with major political party leaders for a settlement of the
current political stand-off; and on the follow-on movements of
former DPP Chairman Shih Ming-teh's campaign to oust President Chen
Shui-bian. News coverage also focused on the second presidential
recall motion, which was put onto the legislative agenda Tuesday;
and Shinzo Abe's succession to Junichiro Koizumi as Japan's new
prime minister. In addition, most newspapers carried the
Presidential Office's statement of Tuesday saying that President
Chen's remarks on constitutional reform Sunday were simply a call
for the public to give serious consideration to the issue and did
not exceed his 'Four Nos' pledge. The pro-independence "Liberty
Times," Taiwan's largest-circulation daily, ran a banner headline on
page two that read "Ma Breaks His Word; Arms Procurement Bill and
Control Yuan Members' Appointments are Blocked Again."

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2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a "Liberty Times"
analysis said the United States is watching closely whether
President Chen will step over the red line in constitutional
reforms. An analysis in the pro-unification "United Daily News"
said Washington was talking to the Taiwan leader using the "lowest"
[i.e. minimum] standard. If Chen fails to keep his promise, the
article said, it would mean that he is not capable of leading Taiwan
and will thus fail the U.S. test. An editorial in the
limited-circulation, conservative, pro-unification, English-language
"China Post" said the United States is "sick and tired of handling
crises brought about by Chen's ceaseless efforts to alter the status
quo in the Taiwan Strait." End summary.

A) "Leaders Should Not Lead to Play [i.e., Frivolously]; United
States is Watching Closely the Red Line of Taiwan's Constitutional
Reforms"

Washington correspondent Nadia Tsao wrote in an analysis in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 600,000] (9/27):

"The United States is clearly aware that, with pan-Blue legislators
occupying a majority of the seats in the Legislative Yuan, the
chances are slim for the constitutional reform proposal tossed off
by President Chen Shui-bian to be passed. But the State
Department's remarks on September 25 indicated that the United
States has told Chen in plain language that, as a state leader, [he]
must not toy with any constitutional reform proposal that touches on
the 'Four Nos' pledge, even if it is only for domestic consumption.
...

"The U.S. side believes that, while it is understandable that the
DPP or others desire to use constitutional reforms to create
internal political energy for the party, Chen, as the state leader
of the Republic of China and the leader of the ruling party, who has
guaranteed to AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt that he would adhere to
his 'Four Nos' pledge, should not just go ahead and lead the DPP to
make constitutional reform proposals. Nor can the U.S. see any
reason for the constitutional reform proposals to be put 'out in the
open.' That is why the State Department directly challenged Chen's
leadership.

"The initial reaction of the Bush administration remained gentle.
But when it comes to 'watching [Chen's] next step,' if the
constitutional reform proposal presented by the DPP Executive
Committee on October 4 still insists on stepping over the red line
identified by the U.S., perhaps Washington's reaction will become
relentless."

B) "United States [Uses] the Lowest Standard to Test Bian [to See If
He Can] Fulfill [His] Pledge"

Washington correspondent Vincent Chang noted in an analysis in the
pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000] (9/27):

"... This time, Chen Shui-bian, using the same approach as he used
when ordering the 'cessation of the National Unification Council' a
few months ago, crossed the 'Four Nos' red line, which he had
guaranteed to the United States innumerable times that he would not
overstep; then, after being criticized by the United States, Chen
returned, one step at a time, to where he had started. The U.S.
State Department demanded that Chen fulfill his pledge of 'not
permitting the constitutional reform process to touch on territory'
and emphasized particularly that this is a pledge Chen has made
'repeatedly.' Obviously, the State Department has grown very
impatient with A-Bian's unreasonable actions. Besides, the most
interesting part of the State Department's remarks was that it
linked the question of whether A-Bian is able of keeping his promise
to the question of whether he is capable of leading Taiwan and
protecting its interests.

"Keeping one's promise is the minimum ethical [standard] that the

general public requests. The fact that the State Department talked
to Taiwan's leader using the minimum standard seems to imply that,
if A-Bian fails to stick to his pledge, he is incapable of leading
[Taiwan] and will thus fail the U.S. 'test.' ..."

C) "Another Useless Proposal"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (9/27):

"... We find it hard to believe that with all of the serious
problems facing his government right now, the only thing that
President Chen can come up with is a silly proposal for changing the
Constitution. ... It seems that every time a crisis erupts,
President Chen can only pander to extreme pro-Taiwan independence
groups by promising to make more strides toward severing his
government's links to the Chinese nation. ... While these actions
may impress a minority of ardent Taiwan independence supporters,
they have done nothing to address substantial issues of governance
that President Chen's administration was elected to tackle. Perhaps
even worse, even our friends in the United States are becoming
visibly frustrated with President Chen's antics. ...

"The very fact that the U.S. government is publicly rebuking
President Chen shows that American officials are sick and tired of
handling crises brought about by Chen's ceaseless efforts to alter
the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. ... While the United States
still publicly expects President Chen to keep his promises, we
believe Washington has long ago ceased to trust the president to
keep his word. ..."

WANG

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