Cablegate: Media Reaction: Dprk Nuclear Test, Kmt Chairman Ma
DE RUEHIN #3636/01 2980933
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 250933Z OCT 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2742
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5826
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 7042
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 003636
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, KMT CHAIRMAN MA
YING-JEOU'S INTERVIEW WITH BLOOMBERG
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies gave
significant coverage October 25 to the Legislative Yuan session
Tuesday, in which the U.S. arms procurement bill was blocked again,
but a long-stalled bill to liquidate ill-gotten assets obtained by
political parties was successfully placed on the legislative agenda.
News coverage also focused on the year-end Taipei and Kaohsiung
mayoral races; and on the remarks by Premier Su Tseng-chang and
National Security Council Secretary General Chiou I-jen these past
two days over whether President Chen Shui-bian will step down if he
or the First Lady is involved in the alleged corruption scandal of
the Presidential allowance for state affairs case.
2. In terms of editorials and commentary, mass-circulation "Apple
Daily" President James Tu commented on Pyongyang's recent nuclear
test. Tu said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has been playing
tricks on China and keeping the latter constantly on the run. An
editorial in the limited-circulation, conservative, pro-unification
"China Post" warned that "(a) nuclear arms race in East Asia is not
in anyone's interest -- too easily, the threat could turn to war and
the consequences could be devastating." Two papers commented on KMT
Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's proposed deal with China should his party
win the 2008 presidential election, as reported in a recent
interview with Bloomberg. An opinion piece in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times," Taiwan's largest-circulation daily, and an
editorial in the limited-circulation, pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" both criticized Ma. As the "Taipei
Times" said, "his words are designed to put Taiwan right into
China's 'united front' trap and are a betrayal of public
expectations." End summary.
3. DPRK Nuclear Test
A) "Kim Jong-il's Tricks Keep China Constantly on the Run"
Mass-circulation "Apple Daily" President James Tu opined in his
paper [circulation: 500,000] (10/25):
"North Korea's nuclear test has drawn the whole world's attention,
and East Asian countries, in particular, have reacted most strongly
to it. But China is the one that felt most embarrassed by such a
move. ... Some Western analysts believe that even though China is
openly opposed to nuclear weapons proliferation on the Korean
peninsula, it is privately very happy to see such a development.
The reason is very simple: even if Pyongyang is in possession of
nuclear weapons, its hypothetical enemy will not be China. As long
as Pyongyang finds it very difficult to get rid of its reliance on
China, its increasing threats to Japan, the United States, and South
Korea will become useful bargaining chips for China during its
negotiations with these countries.
"In addition, China has long been surrounded by countries possessing
nuclear weapons; it will not feel more insecure with North Korea
added to the list. Some people in China also share the same view,
so people outside China naturally believe that Beijing has no fear
of North Korea's nuclear program. But Pyongyang has always been a
sensitive headache for Beijing, which finds it very difficult to
handle. ... The Chinese authorities used to be divided into three
groups, each having different views about how to deal with North
Korea. The first group regards Pyongyang as a buffer zone between
China and the United States, Japan, and South Korea, viewing it as
[a tool] of high strategic value to Beijing. ... The second group
saw increasingly evident conflicts between China and North Korea in
recent years and concluded that Pyongyang is an undependable ally.
... They believed the Pyongyang regime would fall apart sooner or
later, so China had to be well prepared. The third group was the
radical one; they believed that Pyongyang not only would not feel
gratitude toward China but would also become the source of China's
future disasters. They thought China should take a preemptive move
as early as possible to transform the North Korean regime.
"Even though each of the three groups had its own view, and they
also shared something in common: they failed to do anything to
change North Korea. Now that the series of moves by Pyongyang has
practically driven China into a corner and put it in a dilemma, ...
it will be a puzzle even for Hu Jintao to come up with China's next
step to deal with Pyongyang."
B) "What Is Peace?"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (10/25):
"... Let us return to the recent nuclear test by North Korea. This
is an example of state paranoia run wild. ... The North Koreans say
they need nuclear weapons for defense against the United States. If
this were so, the United States could easily use its nuclear forces
to turn North Korea into a radioactive wasteland with a preemptive
strike. A nuclear arms race in East Asia is not in anyone's
YING-JEOU'S INTERVIEW WITH BLOOMBERG
interests -- too easily, threat could turn to war and the
consequences could be devastating.
"A cold war may be better than a hot war. Peace of a kind prevails
in East Asia, but for how long? Japan, which has seen the only
nuclear weapons attack in anger against it, may feel that it is
necessary to rearm. China, which has used its North Korean ally as
a junkyard dog to threaten the West, may find its dog is very hard
to control from now on."
4. KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's interview with Bloomberg
A) "No Independence, No Force, Irresponsible [Remarks]"
DPP China Affairs Director Lai I-chung opined in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 600,000] (10/25):
"Chairman Ma said again during a recent interview that his policy is
that 'Taiwan will not declare independence and China will not use
force against [Taiwan].' Ma believes that this way the 'status quo
can thus be maintained,' and that this is something Taiwan should do
as a 'responsible stakeholder.' But in reality, 'no independence on
Taiwan's part, and no use of force on China's part' will not only be
unable to maintain the status quo but will also deal a destructive
blow to Taiwan's democracy, because it excludes the Taiwan people's
right to determine their future in a democratic way. In the face of
China's military threat, there is no shortcut for Taiwan. The only
thing Taiwan can do is to strengthen its national defense, pass the
arms procurement bill, and deepen its security cooperation with the
United States and Japan. Only by modifying the tilted military
balance in China's favor can Taiwan become a 'responsible
stakeholder' in the Taiwan Strait. ..."
B) "Ma Offers No Peaceful Alternative"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (10/25):
"... While Ma's comments are an improvement over his previously
nave remark that unification is the KMT's eventual goal and his
suggestion of putting aside long-term concerns to focus on the short
and mid-term peaceful development of cross-strait relations, they
still show a distinct lack of Taiwanese consciousness. His words
are designed to put Taiwan right into China's 'united front' trap
and a betrayal of public expectations. ...
"There are several major flaws in Ma's plan. First, it is a denial
of Taiwan's sovereignty. If the winner of the 2008 presidential
election denies that Taiwan is an independent country, how would he
or she be any different from the leaders of Hong Kong and Macau?
Second, the agreement would strangle Taiwan's future. ... But
inking a 'one China' consensus would put Taiwan on a one-way road to
unification, severely limiting the country's future options...
Third, the conditions for a cross-strait peace agreement are
unequal. ... If Taipei were to sacrifice future possibilities in
exchange for Beijing's promise not to attack the country in the
short or medium term, Taiwan would be walking straight into China's
trap without getting anything in return. Fourth, a cross-strait
peace agreement could become an excuse for China to take military
action against Taiwan. Such an agreement would guarantee that the
cross-strait status quo is maintained for a period of time. But if
Taiwan refuses to accept China's demand for unification after the
expiration of the agreement, Beijing could attack Taiwan by claiming
that it has declared independence or that the preconditions for
unification no longer exist. ..."