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Cablegate: Taiwan Southerners' Views On U.S. Arms Procurements

VZCZCXRO7118
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHIN #3736/01 3060733
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020733Z NOV 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2872
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5871
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 8170
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE 6662
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 8208
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 0503
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 1495
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 5463
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 9682
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 7091

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TAIPEI 003736

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON
DEPT FOR EAP/TC, INR/EAP, EAP/PD

FROM AIT KAOHSIUNG BRANCH OFFICE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SCUL TW
SUBJECT: Taiwan Southerners' Views on U.S. Arms Procurements


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

1. (SBU) Summary: On October 17, at a Legislative Yuan procedural
committee meeting, Taiwan's Pan Blue legislators once again blocked
the U.S. arms procurements bill from the agenda for the next
legislative session. Given that the Pan Blue opposition has blocked
the special and supplemental defense budgets 62 times since
September 2004, opinion leaders in southern Taiwan believe that U.S.
arms procurements have become a political issue rather than a
defense issue. AIT's entry into the debate has further highlighted
the political nature of the discussion. They pointed out that the
Pan Blue Camp, which holds a majority in the Legislative Yuan, has
been determined to block all bills proposed by the DPP
administration since it lost power in the presidential election in
2000. Local elected officials in the south worry that the Pan Blue
Camp's blocking U.S. arms procurements will sabotage U.S.-Taiwan
relations. End Summary.

2. (SBU) AIT/K discussed the arms procurements issue with a dozen
contacts in southern Taiwan, including elected officials, scholars,
businessmen, journalists and college students. Those interviewed
represent a full spectrum of political leanings, both green and
blue. All interviewees agree that U.S. arms procurements are
necessary for Taiwan's ability to defend itself from possible attack
by China. They believe that Taiwan should possess good-quality
weapons for the purpose of self-defense or, at least, for
demonstrating its defense capability to the world. The interviewees
also stressed that the government authorities in Taipei should focus
on trends in armaments to avoid wasting tax money on outdated U.S.
arms procurements.

3. (SBU) In response to the Pan Blue Camp's blocking the U.S. arms
procurement bill, Samuel Hung, a university professor in Kaohsiung,
pointed out that the Pan Blue is targeting the DPP administration,
not the arms procurement bill. Hung believed that the reasons held
by the Pan Blue Camp are merely excuses made to justify its
political maneuvering to achieve political ends. Hung went on to
say that in response to Pan Blue criticism of the price, quality and
content of U.S. arms procurements, Taiwan's defense authorities
should make a greater public relations effort to let the general
public know that those weapons are not of inferior quality, but are
necessary for Taiwan to meet its defense needs and to maintain
cross-strait peace. Hung said that the authorities should hold
public hearings throughout Taiwan to send the message to the public
that the most advanced weapons are not necessary to defend Taiwan.


4. (SBU) Zhan Yuan-hsiang, an IV grantee in 2005, held that high
profile public efforts such as debates, TV commercials and public
hearings will help consolidate mainstream public opinion to pressure
the Pan Blue camp to pass the U.S. arms procurement bill. Zhan
noted that given the fact that the opposition will not change its
political stance on the arms procurement issue, the DPP
administration should seek support from the general public by
intensive and effective public diplomacy efforts.

5. (SBU) Taiwan Solidarity Union Kaohsiung City Councilor Zhao
Tian-lin stressed the need for Taiwan to acquire defensive weapons
because China has deployed hundreds of missiles targeted at Taiwan.
In response to recent media reporting on expensive commissions paid
to arms dealers in Taiwan, Zhao said that government authorities
should make the procurement process more open and transparent to
convince the general public that, compared to other countries,
Taiwan is not paying more money for the same kind of weapons.

6. (SBU) Zhao also noted that the general public has become more
skeptical and inquisitive about all arms procurements since the
Lafayette Class Frigates procurement scandal in the mid-1990's.
Zhao predicted that the U.S. arms procurement bill will not be
passed before the 2008 presidential election, since the Pan Blue
Camp will continue to block it until then in the hope the KMT will
recapture the presidency. Zhao believed that KMT Chairman Ma
Ying-jeou will take a tougher position on the arms procurement issue
after he finishes his term as Taipei Mayor. Now that AIT Director
Young is seen as entering the political debate, Zhao said, he
believed the AIT Director was simply relaying a message for the
U.S. government and said his remarks help to attract a much greater
Taiwan audience to the arms procurement issue. Zhao said although
AIT Director Young's remarks (described by Pan Blue politicians as

TAIPEI 00003736 002 OF 002


diplomatic intimidation and violating diplomatic protocol) may have
upset many Taiwanese people, including some Pan Green supporters,
the negative sentiment towards the U.S. government in Taiwan society
will subside soon, since a majority of Taiwanese people believe that
a solid, strong U.S.-Taiwan relationship is a warranty for Taiwan's
national security.

7. (SBU) In response to the AIT Director's remarks on the U.S. arms
procurement bill, Samuel Hung, a research fellow of the Taiwan
Japanese Research Institute, pointed out that the KMT would still
continue to block the bill whether AIT entered into the debate or
not, since the KMT is betting on the U.S. mid-term elections in the
hope that the Democrats will win the election. According to Hung,
the KMT believes that Democrats will not press Taiwan on U.S. arms
procurement since it encourages the policy of engagement with China
and will avoid provoking China. Hung noted that the KMT will wait
for the results of the U.S. mid-term elections to decide its
position on U.S. arms procurements. Hung went on to say that KMT
Chairman Ma Ying-jeou, under pressure from the U.S. government, will
give the nod to the supplementary defense budget of NT$6.8 billion,
currently under review by Taiwan's legislative branch, since Ma will
not risk losing his perceived U.S. government support for his bid
for the presidency.

8. (SBU) Kaohsiung University Professor Chih Cheng-ching pointed out
that recent nuclear tests by North Korea may help consolidate public
opinion towards a higher-dollar defense budget in Taiwan. Chih said
that the new regional political movement in East Asia with possible
military cooperation among China, Japan and South Korea will push
the Taiwan government and its people to consider the theater missile
defense program to safeguard the Taiwan Strait. Chih went on to say
that with a perception that Japan and China will increase their
defense budgets to counter North Korea's nuclear threat, mainstream
public opinion in favor of increasing its defense budget will soon
prevail in Taiwan. Chih also noted that the DPP administration
should use this nuclear issue to promote U.S. arms procurement,
since China, under pressure to deal with this issue, will have less
interest in cross-strait affairs.

9. (SBU) Comment: Although many U.S. arms procurements were proposed
by the previous KMT administration, those procurements now are being
criticized as wasteful and impractical by some in the Pan Blue
opposition, especially the PFP. Regardless of the opposition's
justifications in blocking U.S. arms procurement, there is a loud
voice calling on the opposition to resume a reasonable supervisory
role instead of carrying on a boycott against legislative review of
the arms procurement bill. Many people in the south perceive that
party interest has outweighed the national interest in this issue.
They also believe that in the absence of effective government public
relations efforts, the media and politicians in the north will
continue playing a dominant role in interpreting this issue. End
Comment.

THIELE

WANG

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