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Cablegate: Media Reaction: President Chen's Comments On Constitutional


DE RUEHIN #3379/01 2720900
R 290900Z SEP 06





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies gave
significant coverage September 29 to New York Yankees pitcher
Chien-ming Wang who broke the Major League "Asian" record by with
his 19th win in New York's Yankee Stadium Thursday. News coverage
also focused on the twentieth anniversary of the DPP's founding; on
the follow-on movements of former DPP Chairman Shih Ming-teh's
campaign to oust President Chen Shui-bian; and on a fugitive arms
broker indicted for his alleged role in a kickback scandal in the
purchase of Lafayette-class frigates from France. The
pro-unification "United Daily News" ran a banner headline on page
three that read "Bian: Taiwan, China Are Two Completely Different
Countries." In addition, both the "United Daily News" and
pro-status quo "China Times" on inside pages carried remarks by an
unnamed senior U.S. official who was quoted as saying that President
Chen knows where the red line lies, so the Bian Administration had
better not play the game of "lawyer's language."

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2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an editorial in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times," Taiwan's largest-circulation
daily, said it requires wisdom and efforts to handle Taiwan's
territorial issue through constitutional reforms. The "Black and
White" column in the "United Daily News" criticized President Chen's
recent constitutional reform proposal, saying that Chen has maxed
out all his credibility with regard to Taiwan's relations with the
United States. An editorial in the limited-circulation,
pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News," on the other hand,
discussed Japan's new Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, saying Abe is sure
to play a role in the Taiwan Strait. End summary.

3. President Chen's Comments on Constitutional Reform

A) "It Requires Wisdom and Effort to Handle the Territorial Issue
via Constitutional Reform"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 600,000]
editorialized (9/29):

"... What President Chen and the DPP have been generally criticized
for over the past few years is that they have not tried their best
to push the engineering that would make Taiwan a normal country,
such as the rectification of Taiwan's name and the writing of a new
constitution. They have claimed that 'There is just no way we can
do it,' a statement that has greatly disappointed those who are
concerned about Taiwan's future. But whenever there are elections
or when they are facing a difficult situation, Chen and the DPP
become radical and consequently trigger warnings from the United
States and China about not crossing the red line, a development that
helps nothing but creates trouble for the engineering of Taiwan to
be a normal country.

"The constitutional reform issue brought up by President Chen on
territorial definition is a topic none of the 23 million Taiwan
people can avoid. But we are aware that, given the current reality,
the chances are slim for the proposal to be passed. Nonetheless, we
will never accomplish our goal if we never try. Since Chen is
determined to do so, he should get rid of the myth that westbound
[i.e., China-bound] policies will increase the island's
competitiveness, strengthen the Taiwan-centered awareness through
education, resolve ethnic conflicts and concentrate the people's
attention on national identity. In the meantime, we should explain
[our position] in detail to the international community to seek
international support and smoothly accomplish Taiwan's goal of
becoming a normal country."

B) "Bian Alone Has Maxed out Taiwan Independence"

The "Black and White" column in the pro-unification "United Daily
News" [circulation: 400,000] commented (9/29):

"Chen Shui-bian was again attempting to use remarks about 'Taiwan's
new constitution' to fool the pro-independence activists. But his
remarks regarding territorial redefinition immediately drew a
serious reaction from the U.S. State Department, which, in return,
demanded Bian fulfill the 'pledge he himself has repeatedly made'
and not let Taiwan's 'constitutional reforms touch on territorial
definition.' The strict attitude of the United States indicated
that Washington is at the end of its patience with Bian. ...

"Given Washington's profound understanding of Taiwan's political
situation, how can it not know that Bian's remarks in effect
rewriting the constitution were nothing but a political show [for
domestic consumption] on the island? But the United States insisted
on sticking to Bian's pledge of not altering the status quo in the
Taiwan Strait, adding a statement saying whether Bian is able to
fulfill his promise is closely related to 'whether he is capable of
leading and protecting Taiwan's interests.' The United States is
obviously telling Bian: If you violate your promise, you don't have
the capability to protect Taiwan's interests, and you have lost the

legitimacy to lead Taiwan; in other words, you should step down!

"Bian just briefly mentioned 'giving consideration to' territorial
change, yet the United States gave such a severe warning.
[Washington's reaction] indicated that Bian has indeed maxed out his
credibility with regard to Taiwan's relations with the United
States, and Washington decided not to leave him any leeway. The
resources for Taiwan independence that have been accumulated for so
many years have been maxed out by Chen alone, otherwise the Bush
Administration, which has more or less listened to and understood
the Taiwan independence discourse, would not be lecturing Bian so
harshly on his political show to the independence activists!"

4. New Japanese Prime Minister Abe

"Abe Will Ensure Role in Taiwan Strait"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (9/29):

"... The common foundations of similar values of democracy and
freedom, combined with greater concern over China's increasingly
assertive military and diplomatic position, have helped spur a
perceptible enhancement of relations between Japan and Taiwan during
the past five years. The inclusion of several members of the Diet's
Japan-Taiwan club in the new cabinet naturally indicates that the
trend toward deepening Taipei-Tokyo ties is bound to continue under
Abe. ... Finally, in considering the Taiwan Strait's dispute, we
must understand that the traditional 'U.S., China and Taiwan
triangle' cannot cope with the current strategic situation in the
Taiwan Strait.

"Thanks to its own diplomatic efforts and the U.S.-Japan Security
Alliance, Japan will inevitably play a role which cannot be ignored
in future developments in the Taiwan Strait. If Taiwan remains so
obsessed with the fear of offending Beijing and it is willing to
sacrifice relations with the U.S. and Japan and put all of the hopes
for Taiwan's economic prosperity and security on China, as Ma has
hinted the KMT is willing to do, the result may well be a huge
strategic disaster for the Taiwan people and for Tokyo and
Washington. Certainly, Abe is unlikely to be eager to see such a


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