Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-Taiwan Relations
DE RUEHIN #1429/01 1730837
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 220837Z JUN 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5763
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 6950
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8204
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001429
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: U.S.-TAIWAN RELATIONS
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage June 22 on the release of a convicted "rice bomber"
Thursday after President Chen Shui-bian granted him a special
pardon; on the Basic Competence Test for junior high school students
island-wide; on the 2008 presidential election; and on soaring
Taiwan shares. The pro-independence "Liberty Times" ran an
exclusive news story on page eight with the headline "Frank Hsieh:
[I Am] for the Referendum on the Island's UN Bid under the Name
Taiwan." The pro-unification "United Daily News," however, carried
a news story on page four with the headline "[U.S. President] Bush
Likely to Criticize Bian in Public Again."
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an editorial in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" criticized President Chen for his
"detestable and stupid" referendum proposal, which will deteriorate
Taiwan-U.S. relations and endanger Taiwan's security. The "Black
and White" column in the "United Daily News" also chimed in, saying
that it is the Taiwan people who will have to endure the damage done
to Taiwan-U.S. relations incurred by President Chen's proposed
referendum. An editorial in the limited-circulation, conservative,
pro-unification, English-language "China Post" criticized President
Chen for using Taiwan's UN bid to influence the presidential
election. A "Liberty Times" editorial, however, criticized the
United States for its opposition to Taiwan's UN bid. The article
said the United States has deviated from the values of democracy and
freedom. An editorial in the limited-circulation, pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" said "it is better to be rejected by
the UN when applying as 'Taiwan' than to be accepted under a name
not befitting a sovereign nation." A separate "Taipei Times" op-ed,
written by U.S. Congressional Research Service policy analyst
Shirley Kan, discussed the origins of the Taiwan Relations Act and
the "Six Assurances" made by the Reagan administration in 1982. Kan
said the "U.S. policy focuses on the process of resolution of the
Taiwan question, not its outcome," and that "it is not very
satisfactory or fair." End summary.
A) "The Stupid Referendum That Harms the [Taiwan] People and [the
The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000]
"Chen Shui-bian is pushing for a referendum again, and its topic is
'[Taiwan's] bid to join the United Nations under the name Taiwan.'
Rarely does one see the president of a democratic country who likes
to toy with referenda and play tricks to sabotage other people. ...
Bian's trap has failed to harm Ma Ying-jeou; instead, it has
sabotaged Frank Hsieh and put him in an awkward position. Hsieh is
forced to clarify his stand [on the issue] to the United States. If
he said he supports [Chen's initiative], he will not be able to win
U.S. support, and he might even be faced with difficulties or ask
for an insult. But if he expresses opposition to the referendum, he
will upset Bian, who can play tricks behind Hsieh's back and harm
his campaign. [Bian's] abuse of solemn and sacred referenda to hurt
other people ends up hurting his own comrades, spoiling Taiwan-U.S.
relations, and endangering Taiwan's security. It is really
detestable and stupid."
B) "A Slap in the Face"
The "Black and White" column in the pro-unification "United Daily
News" [circulation: 400,000] wrote (6/22):
"... Regardless of what Bian's mindset was [in terms of his attempt
to hold a referendum on Taiwan's UN bid under the name Taiwan], what
he has done was akin to slapping [AIT Chairman Raymond] Burghardt
hard in the face. But the United States' counterattack came quickly
and ruthlessly. The State Department immediately mentioned Bian's
name and indicated in a tough manner its opposition to Bian's
proposed referendum. It also pointed out that such an initiative
appears designed to alter Taiwan's status quo and will certainly
increase tensions in the Taiwan Strait. Even though Bian asked for
a slap in the face himself, the damage he has done to Taiwan-U.S.
relations will have to be endured by all the Taiwan people. ..."
C) "U.N. Bid Intended to Influence Elections"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (6/22):
"Practically everything President Chen Shui-bian recently said in
public has generated much controversy. He probably did so
deliberately, as a series of major elections are at hand. He and
his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are probably beating their
brains out to devise effective campaign tactics. ... The question
is not whether the United States can force Taiwan to deny its
sovereignty. The real question is whether Taiwan wants the U.S. to
help defend itself in case of a military attack by mainland China.
If President Chen violates his promise not to seek Taiwan
independence during his term, he and his party will lose the trust
and the support of the island's most important ally."
D) "How Can the United States Deviate from the Values of Democracy
and Freedom and Oppose 'Taiwan's' Participation in the United
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 500,000]
"... It is a demonstration of the spirit of democracy to decide on a
major issue and to resolve differences between two sides through the
method of referenda. Various elections in the United States were
often held in tandem with referenda on local or national issues. A
referendum is already part of the normality of democracy. Thus,
Washington's opposition to Taiwan's holding a referendum on the
island's UN bid under the name Taiwan is obviously [a decision] made
from the perspective of international politics, and it is unrelated
to the fundamental values of democracy and human rights. In other
words, the United States sees the referendum as a diplomatic issue
rather than the yearning of the 23 million Taiwan people for the
island's room for survival in the international community. The
United States' intention and its apprehension of China's pressure is
understandable, but the Taiwan people will by no means identify with
its opposition to [Taiwan's plan to hold a] referendum. Taiwan's
holding a referendum on its UN bid under the name Taiwan is a move
not only to pursue the benefits that the Taiwan people deserve but
also to express the island's willingness to fulfill its obligations
as a member of the international community. The U.S. opposition has
not only deviated from its founding spirit of democracy and freedom
but also damaged the ideals of the world commonwealth. ..."
E) "'Taiwan' Is Worth Fighting for"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (6/22):
"At the expense of ruffling feathers in Washington, the Democratic
Progressive Party (DPP) is pushing ahead with a national referendum
on joining the UN under the name 'Taiwan.' Considering the somewhat
frayed relationship between President Chen Shui-bian's
administration and the US, the tit-for-tat exchanges have hardly
been surprising. While the DPP is doing little to endear itself to
the ever-irritable US State Department, its strategy naturally
serves a domestic purpose. By trying to connect the referendum to
next year's elections, Chen hopes pro-green-camp voters will turn
out in higher numbers. ...
"While applying to international agencies under the name 'Taiwan'
does not usually meet with success -- as demonstrated by its WHO bid
this spring -- it is important for Taiwan to maintain a standard.
And it is better to be rejected by the UN when applying as 'Taiwan'
than to be accepted under a name not befitting a sovereign nation."
F) "The TRA and Reagan's Assurances"
Shirley Kan, a policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service
(CRS) in Washington, opined in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (6/22):
"US policy is not perfect. The US' 'one China' policy is frequently
criticized. Some say it lacks sufficient clarity, credibility and
coherence. Others argue that it lacks consistency. Still others
call it dangerous. Sometimes, the policy seems secretive and
contradictory. US policy could be more supportive of the Taiwanese
and their quest for international recognition. ...
"In other words, US policy focuses on the process of resolution of
the Taiwan question, not its outcome. It is not very satisfactory
or fair. But if Taipei pushes for a clearer US position on the
status of Taiwan, it might be even less satisfied."