Cablegate: Media Reaction: Dprk Nuclear Test, U.S.-Taiwan Relations
DE RUEHIN #3536/01 2890906
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160906Z OCT 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2600
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5775
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 6990
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 003536
DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - DAVID FIRESTEIN
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: DPRK NUCLEAR TEST, U.S.-TAIWAN RELATIONS
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused their
coverage October 14-16 on President Chen Shui-bian's call to
consider writing a constitution for a "Second Republic" Sunday; and
on the UN Security Council's decision to impose sanctions on North
Korea. News also focused on President Chen Shui-bian's survival of
a second presidential recall vote last Friday; on a meeting between
KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou and People First Party Chairman James
Soong Sunday on the feasibility of a no-confidence vote on Premier
Su Tseng-chang and a third recall motion against President Chen; and
on the year-end Taipei and Kaohsiung mayoral races. The
pro-independence "Liberty Times," Taiwan's largest-circulation
daily, ran a banner headline on page two that read "Bian: Institute
Constitution for 'Second Republic,'" while the pro-unification
"United Daily News" front-paged a banner headline that said "Bian
Tosses Off Second Republic Constitution."
In addition, several papers continued over the weekend to cover on
inside pages the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) report
released last Tuesday. These news reports focused on the DPP
government's suspicion of TECRO representatives in Washington, as
analyzed in the CRS report, and said Washington is concerned that
the Taiwan leadership is more inclined "to put personal political
interests ahead of more strategic objectives and U.S. concerns."
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an opinion piece in the
"United Daily News" said Pyongyang's recent nuclear test will serve
as an important indicator of the rise and fall of U.S. and Chinese
forces in East Asia. An editorial in the limited-circulation,
conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post" said
Kim Jong-il has acted as if North Korea "is a real tiger with
nuclear teeth" and "in the end, the world probably must bite the
bullet and recognize the fait accompli that is the result of the
collective blunders made the major players who had either
miscalculated or underestimated North Korea." An opinion piece in
the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" urged the
United States to make a comprehensive evaluation of the current
situation in East Asia, while a separate "Taipei Times" opinion
piece said the nuclear test "has thoroughly proven the
ineffectiveness of Beijing's effort to be a leader in international
policy, and destroyed any credibility it had as a reliable
mediator." With regard to U.S.-Taiwan relations, columnist Antonio
Chiang commented on the CRS report and said President Chen's
credibility problem has done severe harm to Taipei-Washington ties.
An editorial in the limited-circulation, pro-independence,
English-language "Taiwan News," on the other hand, said it is
apparent that Washington was "overly tilting toward Beijing ... for
the sake of fostering China as a' responsible stakeholder' in the
international community." End summary.
3. DPRK Nuclear Test
A) "North Korea's Nuclear Test [Results in] Declining Chinese Force,
Rising U.S. Force"
Chen Hsin-chih, associate professor of political science at National
Cheng Kung University, opined in the pro-unification "United Daily
News" [circulation: 400,000] (10/15):
"On the surface, it seems as if the United States has softened its
punitive measures against North Korea at Beijing's insistence. But
Beijing's support for, and participation in, the [UN] resolution to
impose sanctions on North Korea also indicates that the era in which
Beijing and Washington worked together to divide their territories
of power on the Korean Peninsula by the 38th parallel has come to an
end. North Korea has always been classified as being within China's
territory of power, and since the Korean War in 1950 Beijing has
been the long-time protector of North Korea's safety and its biggest
supporting partner when it comes to economic and trade exchanges
with North Korea. But Pyongyang's test-firing of ballistic missiles
on July 5 and its recent nuclear test both indicated that North
Korea no longer trusts Beijing to provide the necessary safety
umbrella to protect North Korea. Pyongyang, as a result, has
switched to developing its nuclear deterrent force as the key tool
to maintain Kim Jong-il's regime. North Korea's repeated challenges
to the international community have all the more highlighted
Beijing's declining influence on Pyongyang.
"Beijing has failed to restrain North Korea's behavior in recent
years, and it has failed to resolve Washington's negative impression
on North Korea. Beijing has also been in great straits when it
comes to maintaining the security status quo on the Korean
Peninsula. By contrast, Washington's tough attitude toward
Pyongyang, which has more than once spurred North Korea to adopt
extreme practices in order to maintain the Kim Jong-il regime, has
rapidly weakened China's prestige with and influence on North Korea.
As a result, Beijing is forced to work with the United States to
abandon ... its original unilateral strategy to restrain North
Korea, and to deal with the North Korean nuclear issue by using the
negotiation methods normally adopted by big countries, in an attempt
to meet the common interests of Beijing and Washington. ...
"For the future, developments on the Korean Peninsula will serve as
a touchstone for China and the United States in dealing with
regional security issues in East Asia, using the negotiation methods
adopted by big countries. It will also become an important
indicator of the rise and fall of U.S. and Chinese forces in East
B) "Who Is the Paper Tiger?"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (10/14):
"... Although labeled by George W. Bush as a rogue state and member
of the axis of evil, North Korea is gusty enough to play the game of
chicken with the world's sole superpower. ... You may call North
Korea a 'paper tiger' if you like, but it is scary enough to unnerve
its neighbors, even the United States, which is the real tiger. Kim
was able to embarrass Bush by calling his bluff. The American
president now looks at the end of his rope on how he could respond
to Kim's provocation. More than that, Kim was also able to expose
to the whole world the hypocrisy of Bush, who invaded Iraq three
years ago under the pretext that Saddam Hussein possessed 'weapons
of mass destruction.' But no traces of WMDs have ever been found
since the oil-rich country was 'liberated' by the U.S.-led forces.
"Kim has told Bush all along that he has nuclear weapons, and
long-range missiles, too. Now, Kim has detonated one for the world
to see. Bush is watching this proliferation of WMD with folded
hands. Why the double standard? Why was a sin for Saddam to own
something he did not have, while it is OK for Kim to test the WMD in
the face of the world? Is it because North Korea does not have oil?
Equally embarrassed is mainland China, which has put its
credibility on the line by assuring the world that the best way to
resolve the nuclear crisis was through quiet diplomacy. Now the
Frankenstein's monster created by Beijing has not responded to
Beijing's entreaties and pressure, and gave Beijing a slap in the
face. Now the world is watching how Beijing will clean up the mess
created by itself. Beijing, after all, is the only country that
wields real influence on Pyongyang, because it is the provider of
food, fuel, and financial support for North Korea. ...
"But Kim has acted as if the North is a real tiger with nuclear
teeth. He stands tall despite his diminutive stature, knowing that
the collapse of his regime would be a nightmare for its neighbors,
mostly mainland China, South Korea, and Russia who fear for the
millions of North Korean refugees fleeing the slave land. ... In
the end, the world probably must bite the bullet and recognize the
fait accompli that is the result of the collective blunders made the
major players who had either miscalculated or underestimated North
Korea. With or without sanctions, Pyongyang will not vanish from
the earth any time soon. A nuclear-free Korea peninsula will become
more difficult to achieve, now that the Pandora box is opened."
C) "China Behind North Korea, the 'Reds'"
Paul Lin, a political commentator based in Taipei, opined in the
pro-independence "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (10/16):
"... China colluded with North Korea in the six-party talks to lie
to the US and the international community just to buy time to
increase Pyongyang's military prowess. And Beijing also allowed the
North Koreans to move their center for money laundering to Zhuhai,
China, after shutting down the Macau operation, and last November,
Hu visited North Korea to give a gift of US$2 billion. ... The
nuclear test is a direct threat to the peace of East Asia, and so
the defenses of South Korea, Japan and Taiwan must all be
strengthened. The test is also sure to encourage Iran's arrogance
and increase tensions in the Middle East. ...
"Beijing is behind North Korea just as it is behind this new 'red
army' in Taipei. We shall see if China is willing to punish North
Korea. ... The US must make a comprehensive evaluation of the
current situation in East Asia. Besides preparing military options,
it must also have political solutions. The US can no longer be
lenient with China, the source of the problem."
D) "North Korean Test Exposes Regional Fault Lines"
Parris Chang, former deputy secretary-general of the National
Security Council, opined in the pro-independence "Taipei Times"
[circulation: 30,000] (1015):
"... North Korea's nuclear test is a serious blow to international
stability in East Asia, and proves that China and the US' efforts to
prevent North Korea from joining the nuclear club have been massive
failures. The international community originally had high hopes
that the six-party talks would persuade North Korea to give up its
nuclear aspirations. However, its test has thoroughly proven the
ineffectiveness of Beijing's effort to be a leader in international
policy, and destroyed and credibility it had as a reliable mediator.
"The US' top concern, no the other hand, is that North Korea could
develop the ability to attack the US with nuclear weapons and
long-range missiles. This week's test proves that the 'no war, but
no peace either' tactic Bush has adopted over the past six years has
been a complete failure. Furthermore, the Bush administration's
reliance on China to act as moderator for the six-party talks has
been a colossal strategic failure. It is therefore time for a
policy reassessment. ...
"North Korea's policy of brinkmanship has forced Japan to once again
consider amending its pacifist constitution and build up its
military. It also has to decide whether or not it wants to develop
its own nuclear weapons. North Korea has strengthened Abe's
position. He has long held that Japan should amend its 1947
Constitution so that military forces can fight alongside allies
overseas. The draft of the revised Constitution will maintain
Japan's commitment to peace, but it will also allow for Japan to
quicken its military buildup and become a normal country."
4. U.S.-Taiwan Relations
A) "A-Bian Does Severe Harm to Taiwan-U.S. Relations"
Columnist Antonio Chiang commented in the mass-circulation "Apple
Daily" [circulation: 500,000] (10/16):
"A-Bian's credibility problem is his Achilles heel. If society can
trust his personality, corruption will not be the target of the
'Oust Bian' campaign. When it comes to Taipei-Washington ties,
Bian's personal credibility problem has not only hurt himself but
also done damage to Taiwan's interests as a whole. The U.S.
Congressional Research Service has no substantive political
influence, but its severe criticism of A-Bian himself did reflect
mainstream opinion in Washington D.C. Over the past six years,
since A-Bian came to power, Washington's patience and goodwill
toward the Taiwan authorities have been eroded to nearly nothing.
No matter whether it's the White House, the National Security
Council, the State Department, or the think tanks, their bad opinion
of A-Bian has not only been increasing but also almost undivided.
"For A-Bian, this way [i.e., flip-flopping] is the only way to
survive in the perilous waters of politics, and this is his survival
strategy. But having passed one trial after another, he has
destroyed practically every bridge after he passed the trial. Now
almost all the bridges of Taipei-Washington relations have been
totally destroyed by him."
B) "Mutual Respect Key to U.S.-Taiwan Ties"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (10/16):
"Maintenance of healthy and constructive relations between Taiwan
and the United States has undeniably become more difficult in the
face of factors such as China's increasing influence on global
affairs, Washington's 'war on terror,' contending crises in the
Middle East, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and domestic changes
in both Taiwan and the U.S. A newly released report by an analyst
with the U.S. Congressional Research Service called 'Taiwan-U.S.
Political Relations: New Changes and Strains' pointed to both
structural and political constraints that have complicated ties
between the right-wing Republican administration of U.S. President
George W. Bush and the Democratic Progressive Party6 administration
under President Chen Shui-bian in Taiwan. ...
"We have repeatedly urged the Bush administration to keep in mind
the importance of striking a balance between its engagement with the
authoritarian Chinese Communist Party-ruled People's Republic of
China and Washington's long-time support of Taiwan's democracy.
Washington's anxiety about cross-strait tension comes largely from
the perception that Beijing will make a 'dangerous, objectionable,
and foolish response' to Taiwan's continued affirmation of its
sovereignty and independence. Since the Beijing regime is even less
predictable than democratic Taiwan, it has been easier for
Washington to attempt to constrain Taipei first or even treat the
Taiwan leader as a 'trouble-maker' than to address the structural
problems that cause these tensions.
"President Chen's leadership style may indeed constitute an element
in past flaps in the Taipei-Washington relationship, but
unilaterally putting all the blame on Chen's personal style or
alleged political motives is unfair to Taiwan's
democratically-elected national leader and shows a myopic refusal to
acknowledge fundamental changes in the nature of cross-strait
relations. ... While the Bush administration keeps pressuring
President Chen and the DPP to avoid rocking the boat by pursuing any
possible means of so-called 'formal independence,' it should also
have introduced concrete measures to constrain Beijing's incessant
deployment of more and more missiles targeted at Taiwan and its
diplomatic saber from rattling against Taipei's international space.
We believe the Bush administration did make efforts to persuade
Beijing leaders to engage in direct dialogue with Taiwan's
duly-elected president and government and to refrain from misguided
and belligerent moves to threaten Taiwan's democracy. However, it
is also apparent that Washington has overly tilting toward Beijing,
despite the lack of a 'goodwill' response to the above initiatives,
for the sake of fostering China as a 'responsible stakeholder' in
the international community. ..."