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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Indictment of First Lady Wu Shu-Chen, U.S.

VZCZCXYZ0021
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #3799/01 3112255
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 072255Z NOV 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2960
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5913
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 7130

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 003799

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: INDICTMENT OF FIRST LADY WU SHU-CHEN, U.S.
ARMS SALES TO TAIWAN


1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies continued to
focus their coverage November 7 on the aftermath of President Chen
Shui-bian's televised address to the Taiwan people Sunday evening
with regard to the indictments of First Lady Wu Shu-chen and three
presidential aides. News coverage also focused on a former
Presidential Office deputy secretary-general, who was released on
NT$6 million bail Monday. The pro-status quo "China Times"
front-paged the results of a survey which showed that only 13
percent of those polled said they believe President Chen's
clarification on his role in the Presidential Office Allowance for
State Affairs case. A "United Daily News" poll also showed that 55
percent of respondents said they believe President Chen was lying in
his clarification, and 63 percent of respondents said they believe
President Chen is corrupt. Almost all the papers reported on inside
pages that the Legislative Yuan's National Defense Committee agreed
Monday to pass the budget of NT$6.1 billion [USUS$18787 million] for
P-3C anti-submarine aircraft in the Ministry of National Defense's
classified budget for FY 2007.

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, most papers continued to
editorialize on President Chen's address to the people Sunday on his
role in the Presidential account for state affairs case. The
pro-Green papers remained confident of Chen's assertions, while the
pro-Blue papers continued to criticize Chen and his alleged lies.
The limited-circulation, pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan
News" devoted its entire page 8 to an opinion forum prepared the
paper's Editorial Department on the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and
AIT Taipei Director Stephen Young's press conference on October 26.
The forum criticized KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou and the pan-Blue camp
for purposely blocking the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. End summary.

3. Indictment of First Lady Wu Shu-chen

A) "Why Doesn't Each Side Back Down a Little?"

The "Free Talk" column in the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
[circulation: 600,000] noted (11/7):

"A-Bian reported to his people about the State Affairs Fund case and
guaranteed that he will resign if [his wife] is found guilty in an
initial trial on corruption charges. The entire Blue camp lashed
out strongly at [Chen's remarks]. But if one looks at [Chen's
statement] fairly, it was actually an alternative that has,
comparatively speaking, taken the whole current political situation
into consideration. If the Blue camp fails to even accept this
bottom line, it will prove that their opposition to Bian is nothing
but hatred and that they have total disregard for right or wrong,
for law, reason, and emotions, so long as Bian is ousted. ..."

B) "Should He Stay or Should He Go Now?"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (11/7):

"... Nevertheless, Chen's position is an extremely problematic one,
as whatever choice he makes will do serious harm to the nation's
democratic development and localization movement. If he decides to
stay on, survives the recall bid and carries on with his duties
until the first lady's trial, he will probably scupper any hope the
DPP has for next month's mayoral elections. In addition, we can
look forward to several more months of political showboating and
legislative deadlock, although the truth is that this would have
been the case regardless of the prosecutor's findings. ... But
stepping down before any trial would be akin to admitting his
family's guilt. Chen would, to use his words, be committing
'political suicide.' He would also deal a huge victory to the
pro-China camp, as it would be a surrender to the pan-blue media's
war of attrition and their long-standing campaign to deal a fatal
blow to both Chen and the localization movement. ... It is 16
months until the next presidential election and tough times and
tough decisions lie ahead. But, 16 months is a long time in
politics, and memories in Taiwan are unbelievably short. How else
could people believe that the pan-blue camp is the answer to
Taiwan's corruption woes?"

C) "Truth Must Come Before Politics"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (11/7):

"... While Chen's gambit intended on a personal level to defend the
integrity of himself and his spouse, on an institutional level,
Chen's pledge aimed to ensure that the fundamental solution to the
crisis is based on the proper functioning of the justice system to
determine whether he or his wife are in fact guilty or innocent of
these charges and not through mechanisms of political struggle, such
as a recall. On a political level, facing a polarized Taiwan
society in which as many as half of the nation's voters have no
ARMS SALES TO TAIWAN

confidence in him, President Chen's objective was clearly to ease
the shock and reduce the doubts of 'pan-green' and DPP supporters.
... Moreover, as we stressed yesterday, an indictment does not
certify guilt, a judgment that must be made by the courts. Thus,
Friday's indictment does not prove that Chen is a corrupt president
or that the DPP government is a corrupt administration and provides
no further legitimacy for demands for Chen's resignation made by the
pan-KMT camp or other political opponents. ... Setting aside the
question of the innocence or guilt of the president and the first
lady and their former aides, Chen's redirection of the case from the
political to the judicial arena is a positive move for Taiwan's
democracy and the rule of law. ..."

D) "Does DPP Dare to Allow Its Legislators to Cast Votes on the
Presidential Recall Motion?"

The pro-status quo "China Times" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (11/7):

"President Chen Shui-bian has now postponed the time for him to step
down to the moment when a judgment in an initial trial is produced,
and the DPP immediately echoed his remarks. Even though there were
many excuses, lies, and loopholes that could be found in his
one-hour 'Report to the People,' many DPP members still regard him
as the one and only life preserver. The only thing that they forgot
was the political ethics and political responsibility of a leader to
maintain his credibility. Chen's public address sounded very similar
to [that of] a criminal suspect who cries out loudly to defend
himself, or a lawyer who has tried every means he can to try to
defend a criminal defendant. He did not sound like a president who
has taken the Taiwan people's interests into consideration. During
his entire address, he only argued the parts that will be favorable
to his case and said nothing with regard to his political ethics and
political responsibility. ... What we are really concerned about
is: With what criteria of political ethics and political
responsibility is the ruling DPP, having listened to this unabashed
and shameless public address, going to view this future criminal
suspect and lawyer as well as president who clings tightly to his
presidency, who cares about nothing butprotecting himself, and who
has no regard for Taiwan or his party?

E) "What to Do about Chen?"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (11/7):

"... Chen vowed to step down only if his wife is found guilty of
corruption, a last-ditch attempt to prove his innocence, which is
nothing but a delaying tactic. Legal proceedings in this case could
take more than a year. By then, his term of office, which expires
in March 2008, would already be nearing its end. Chen's legal and
political troubles are opening a deep rift among his core
supporters. He has already begun to lose crucial backing from
legislative allies, including some from the ruling DPP. But the
president has lost the people's trust and respect. He can no longer
lead the people at home nor effectively represent the country
abroad. The issue that now remains is a forced resignation. If he
doesn't go sooner, Taiwan faces two more years of trouble."

4. U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan

A) "A National Leader Cannot Ignore National Interests"

Yen Chia-tong, a senior media worker, noted on the "Forum" prepared
by the Editorial Department of the pro-independence,
English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation: 20,000] (11/7):

"The arms procurement bill authorizing Taiwan to buy weapons from
the United States is still stuck in the Legislative Yuan as part of
an overall budget proposal. The slow pace at which the bill is
being dealt with has prompted as rare public condemnation from
American Institute in Taiwan Director Stephen Young. Young
expressed the hope that the bill would be passed by the end of this
session, or else there would be consequences to pay. This type of
unabated threat is significant as the U.S. has seemingly bypassed
the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and laid down the gauntlet
to the opposition Kuomintang and People First Party. This is a
clear showdown and a stern test for the leader of the opposition
forces, KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou. ... The emotional and seemingly
tough stance taken by opposition legislators is an empty threat.
After the mayoral elections in Taipei and Kaohsiung, the likelihood
that the arms procurement bill will be passed is very high. This is
because ultimately these opposition political leaders all remember
what they originally promised the United States.

"The reason Young mentioned the "fall" deadline was in response to a
pledge Ma made himself during his recent visit to the United States
where he was accorded a high-level reception. Who could have
ARMS SALES TO TAIWAN

predicted that by the end of the fall Ma's pledge would be so hard
to carry through? This situation has not only cast doubt over Ma's
leadership domestically, the United States has its questions as well
concerning the man most likely to become president here in 2008.
...

"Aside from considerations concerning the international status quo,
you cannot overlook the direction in which a leader takes his or her
nation. U.S. officials have all but given up on Chen Shui-bian,
believing he can do nothing of significance in the remaining year
and a half of his term. They originally trusted Ma and find it hard
to fathom why he is having trouble convincing the majority of KMT
legislators to pass the bill. Young's comments were more than a
mere threat but could be conceived as an impetus to get something
done. U.S. officials are finding it hard to understand how a
political leader who cannot bring about long-term benefits for his
country can ever become the leader of the nation! ..."


B) "U.S. Fed up with Pan-Blue Split"

Chu His-ting, a senior media worker, noted on the "Forum" prepared
by the Editorial Department of the pro-independence,
English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation: 20,000] (11/7):

"... Although the Kuomintang denies it, many political observers
interpreted Young's remarks as being directed at Ma. In an almost
threatening tone, Young especially noted that the U.S. would be
watching to see who blocked the arms procurement bill, and that if
the Legislative Yuan did not pass it during this session, then
Taiwan would not necessarily be able to buy any weapons from the
U.S. after 2008 even if it wanted to. Rather than Young saying it
as the People First Party blocking the bill through a legislative
boycott, it was implied that Ma Ying-jeou was unable to unite
pan-blue factions, thus enabling PFP Chairman James Soong to get
what he wanted. ...

"Young's tough comments caused a reaction among pan-blue stalwarts.
... Moreover, Young's comments have given the Chen administration a
little more room to maneuver. One sign of this may have come at a
video-conference for Japanese and Taiwanese representatives in
Japan, during which Chen equated the pan-blue's opposition to the
arms package and the idea of ultimate unification with China as the
result of cooperation between the KMT and Chinese Communist Party.
...

"The real reasons the bill is facing difficulty are that Ma cannot
handle Soong nor reconcile the differences of opinion over the bill
among KMT members, effectively passing the responsibility for its
passage back on Chen Shui-bian. In point of fact, Ma hopes the
sooner the bill is taken care of the sooner he can win U.S. trust
and support. This was why on his trip to the U.S. in March of this
year, Ma explained to U.S. officials that the KMT was not opposed to
the arms procurement bill and assured them that it would be taken
care of quickly. It's been six months since Ma's trip and there has
been absolutely no progress made on the bill. In the eyes of U.S.
officials, Ma's check bounced and it is unlikely that the bill has
any chance to be passed before Taiwan's presidential elections in
2008. ... Stephen Young's 'fall deadline' is the U.S.' final
ultimatum for Ma. Whatever angle you care to look at the issue, Ma
has nothing left to force a showdown with the U.S., as the pressure
to pass the arms procurement bill lies solely on his shoulders. The
situation now is self-evident; Ma has until after the Taipei and
Kaohsiung mayoral elections at the latest to produce some concrete
results concerning the arms procurement bill. No matter whether the
KMT comes out victorious or not in these elections, the road Ma has
to tread will become more dangerous and the light guiding him will
dim with each passing day."

C) "Criticism of AIT Director Unfounded"

Paul Lin, a political commentator based in Taipei, commented in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] (11/6):

"... Do Young's comments really constitute interference in Taiwan's
domestic affairs: The US' proposed arms sale is permitted under its
Taiwan Relations Act. Taiwan has never objected to this, and in
fact has strongly welcomed it. During its time in power, the
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) bought much of the nation's weaponry
from the US. ...

"How could this be construed as 'political interference?' Opposition
politicians could always come out and say clearly that they don't
want to buy the US' weapons and be done with it. But do they dare?
In refusing to buy US arms, are they preparing to buy Chinese
weapons instead, or perhaps getting ready to surrender to China?
..."
ARMS SALES TO TAIWAN


WANG

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