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Cablegate: Media Reaction: President Chen Shui-Bian's "Second

VZCZCXYZ0016
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #3549/01 2900856
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 170856Z OCT 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2619
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5780
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 6995

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 003549

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 "SECOND
REPUBLIC" IDEA, U.S.-TAIWAN RELATIONS


1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies put their focus
October 17 on President Chen Shui-bian's idea of writing a
constitution for a "Second Republic;" on the KMT's decision Monday
to pull back its support for a People First Party proposal on a
no-confidence vote against Premier Su Tseng-chang; on the KMT-CCP
Cross-Strait Agricultural Forum held in Boao October 17-18; and on a
business scandal in which a former financial executive officer of a
major holding company was taken into custody for violating the
Banking Law. The pro-independence "Liberty Times," Taiwan's
largest-circulation daily, ran a banner headline on page four that
read "Bian Tosses Off [Idea of a] Second Republic, Part of [DPP's]
Constitutional Reform Strategy." The pro-unification "United Daily
News," on the other hand, ran a news story on page two that quoted
the U.S. State Department as saying Monday that the United States
does not support Taiwan independence and is opposed to unilateral
attempts by either side of the Taiwan Strait to alter the status
quo.

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a commentary in the
pro-status quo "China Times" and a "United Daily News" commentary
both noted that President Chen's playing with the constitutional
issue is aimed at replacing former President Lee Teng-hui as the
paramount leader of Taiwan independence. An editorial in the
limited-circulation, conservative, English-language "China Post"
commented on a recent U.S. Congressional Research Service report on
Taiwan, saying the report is "realistic and explicit, but it
underestimates the capabilities of President Chen and his
strategists." A separate "China Post" editorial discussed AIT
Taipei Director Stephen Young's relationship with the pan-Blue camp,
saying "the blue camp has been angry with the U.S. for breaking a
promise of not recognizing President Chen's 2004 re-election before
a recount." End summary.

3. President Chen Shui-bian's "Second Republic" Idea

A) "Constantly Tossing Off New Constitution [Plans] and Calculating
Carefully, Bian Vies for Becoming Paramount Leader of Independence
Faction"

Journalist Lin Shu-ling said in an analysis in the pro-status quo
"China Times" [circulation: 400,000] (10/17):

"After Chen Shui-bian tossed off the idea of a new constitution on
territorial redefinition on September 24, the communication between
Taipei and Washington had not stopped until before Double Ten
National Day. Now Bian was in a hurry to toss off a 'constitution
for a Second Republic' and said this does not violate his 'Four
Noes' pledge to the United States, and his remarks were echoed by
some people in the DPP Central Headquarters. What is Bian's plan
after all? ...

"When judged in terms of final outcomes, Chen is in reality the
winner in the upheavals caused by the cessation of the National
Unification Council (NUC) in early 2006. He succeeded after all by
getting rid of the 'one No' and his pledge to the United States was
reduced to 'Four Noes.' Sources said that, when the Presidential
Office made the proposal on the territorial issue last month, it
claimed once again during its negotiations with Washington that
[such a development] 'would not violate the "Four Noes" pledge.'
But Washington, unwilling to see a repeat of the NUC matter, put on
a stern face and very tough attitude, so Bian had to give up [his
idea] at the last minute. The Presidential Office was again
emphasizing this time that a 'Second Republic constitution does not
violate the "Four Noes" pledge,' so what happens next remains to be
seen.

"Bian is clearly aware that no matter what new constitutional draft
is proposed by the DPP, the chances are slim for it to pass even in
the Legislative Yuan. But he still does not give up; he wants to
push it even at the risk of stepping on the red line drawn by the
United States. His motivation has to do with how he will be defined
when he leaves office in 2008. ... Everyone can tell from the
fierce competition lately between Lee Teng-hui and Bian that it was
in reality a battle over who will be the 'paramount leader of the
independence faction.' ..."

B) "By Constantly Manipulating Issues, Bian Wants to Draw
Independence Activists to His Side and Replace Lee"

Journalist Huang Ya-shih noted in an analysis in the pro-unification
"United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000] (10/17):

"President Chen's recent call to 'consider re-defining [Taiwan's]
territory' triggered grave concerns from the United States. On
Sunday he again tossed off the idea of considering a 'Second
Republic constitution,' which has touched on the sensitive nerve of
sovereignty issues. Even though Bian was simply floating trial
balloons of 'his ideas,' his move somehow pointed out the path of
REPUBLIC" IDEA, U.S.-TAIWAN RELATIONS

the remainder of his term: namely, cross-Strait relations will face
a hard winter in the next one-and-a-half years. ...

"Chen said at a party celebrating Koo Kuan-min's birthday the other
day that Koo's dream of 'nation building' ten years ago was
something that he 'woke up' to see today. Chen's statement
implicitly exposed his idea - namely, should the structures of the
internal and external climates remain the same, Bian will definitely
use various means in the next one-and-a-half years to try to touch
the constitutional 'red line' concerning [Taiwan's'] sovereignty.
..."

4. U.S.-Taiwan Relations

A) "U.S., Beware of Chen's Tricks"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (10/17):

"... To reject persistent calls for his resignation and avoid the
eventuality of going to jail, Chen is reportedly ready to disrupt
the status quo by freezing, not abolishing or amending, the ROC
Constitution in the name of improving the effectiveness of Taiwan's
governance. All existing government institutions, including the
judiciary and the parliament, will be suspended. There won't be a
declaration of independence. Washington will have to come to
Taiwan's aid should Beijing attack the island. Chen has promised
his core supporters to draft a new Taiwan Constitution by the end of
2006, hold a referendum on it in 2007, and implement it on May 20,
2008, when he leaves office. Thus, by successfully freezing the
Constitution, he will have built a legacy and at the same time
escaped punishments for corruption.

"Kerry Dumbaugh's report on 'Taiwan-U.S. Political Relations: New
Strains and Changes' for the U.S. Congress is realistic and
explicit, but it underestimates the capabilities of President Chen
and his strategists. Angels, be prepared for the worst."

B) "Young, Persona Non Grata?"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (10/17):

"Could the U.S. chief representative in Taiwan be named a persona
non grata by lawmakers who were mostly U.S.-trained and known for
their pro-U.S. stance? Last Wednesday, the day after the famous
National Day 'disgrace,' some two dozen 'pan-blue' (KMT plus PFP)
lawmakers actually talked about it. ...

"Differences between the blue camp and Young began to emerge
immediately after the new AIT head arrived in Taipei in March with a
clear mission to push for an early conclusion of a robust arms deal
package offered by President Bush in April 2001. For two years, the
Chen administration held up the deal over its cost. When it was
finally introduced, with a drastically reduced budget, the deal was
blocked by the opposition on grounds that such expenditures 'are too
high, too confrontational, and likely unnecessary in light of
improvements in cross-strait interactions.'

"There is 'the sea-change in KMT/PFP thinking' after historic visits
to Beijing by KMT chairman Lien Chan and PFP chairman James Soong in
2005. The blue camp's support for a security relationship with the
U.S., an unfulfilled dream of the KMT during its 50-year rule,
appears in doubt now. The blue camp has been angry with the U.S.
for breaking a promise of not recognizing President Chen's 2004
re-election before a recount. ... Taiwan's mentor-and-protector is
also criticized for failing to stop the Chen administration from
degenerating in all aspects, turning Taiwan into a big mess."

YOUNG

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