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Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations

VZCZCXYZ0006
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #1599/01 1980920
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 170920Z JUL 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6021
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7034
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8280

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001599

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - BROOKE SPELLMAN
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: U.S.-CHINA-TAIWAN RELATIONS

1. Summary: As the 2008 presidential election continued to remain
in the spotlight of the Taiwan media, news coverage on July 17 also
focused on a nationwide amnesty, under which around 10,000 inmates
were released Monday. The pro-unification "United Daily News" ran a
news story on page four with the headline "The United States Demands
That Taiwan Abandon R&D of Its Offensive Missiles." A separate
"United Daily News" story also quoted a U.S. "Defense News" report
as saying that the terms under which Washington will sell Taiwan
F-16 C/D fighter jets is for Taiwan to abandon its development of
the Hsiungfeng 2E cruise missiles.

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a news analysis in the
pro-unification "United Daily News" discussed the upcoming trips to
the United States by DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh and KMT
presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou, respectively. The article said
both Ma and Hsieh not only will have to prove to their voters that
they highly value the Taiwan-centered awareness but will have to
pledge to Washington that they will not cross the red line drawn by
the United States. An editorial in the conservative,
pro-unification, English-language "China Post" discussed an
undeclared alliance formed by the European Union, the United States
and China to thwart President Chen Shui-bian's plan to hold a
referendum on Taiwan's UN bid under the name "Taiwan." An op-ed
piece in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times,"
written by an Australia-based writer, on the other hand, urged the
United States to "reorient its military policies lest China end up
filling the gap by default -- as is happening in the Asia Pacific."
End summary.

A) "Diplomatic Battles between Ma and Hsieh Are a Condensed Version
of the Blue and the Green Camps' Cross-Strait Policy"

Journalist Lee Ming-hsien noted in an analysis in the
pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000] (7/17):

"Frank Hsieh is scheduled to depart for a visit to the United States
this coming Friday, and if everything goes smoothly, Ma Ying-jeou
will visit Washington again in September at the earliest. The fact
that both Ma and Hsieh are trying to promote and expand Taiwan's
relations [with the United States] is in reality a typical skirmish
prior to the 2008 presidential poll. ...

"Ma had won high approval during his trip to the United States in
March 2007, and his visit to the United States again this time in
the capacity as a presidential candidate will naturally be viewed as
a race with Hsieh. In particular, the results of Hsieh's trip to
the United States this time will become an important indicator for
the Blue camp -- namely, the key to determine whether Ma's U.S. trip
in September will help to boost his campaign lies in whether Ma can
prove to [Washington] that he is capable of adopting a more
pragmatic and open-minded approach in terms of cross-Strait
relations, and of unifying and creating a consensus among the Taiwan
people.

"The fact that Hsieh's cross-Strait policy has become more
conservative was related to the intense primary of the DPP. Hsieh
will have to indicate clearly his support for the referendum on
Taiwan's UN bid in an attempt to avoid a backlash from the party's
fundamentalists. On the other hand, Ma proposed a referendum on
Taiwan rejoining the United Nations in order to pander to the
light-Green or even the nativist voters. The two proposed referenda
are basically a condensed version of the Blue and the Green camps'
cross-Strait policy.

"Washington, however, is concerned about whether in the subtle
interaction among Washington, Beijing and Taipei, the fervent
campaigning in Taiwan for the 2008 poll will result in a race of
policies between Ma and Hsieh and thus trigger disturbances in the
Taiwan Strait. This is one of the reasons why Washington has
invited Ma and Hsieh to visit the United States. The diplomatic
battlefield of both Ma and Hsieh is in reality their discourse on
Taiwan's sovereignty, an issue that follows from the referenda on
the island's UN bid. Ma and Hsieh will not only have to prove to
their Taiwan voters that they highly value the Taiwan-centered
awareness, but will have to pledge to the United States that they
will not cross the red line drawn by Washington, regardless of how
intense the campaign gets."

B) "Can the EU, U.S. Stop Chen?"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (7/17):

"An undeclared alliance of the European Union (27 states), the
United States and the People's Republic of China appears to be
taking shape to thwart President Chen Shui-bian's plan to hold a
referendum on Taiwan's United Nations bid alongside the island's
2008 presidential elections. ... The island republic is about to
receive a stern EU injunction to act 'sensibly and responsibly' by

scrapping a planned referendum asking voters whether they would like
the island to seek membership of the U.N. under its historic name,
the 'Republic of China,' or just 'Taiwan.' ...

"America, which has many reasons to seek China's diplomatic
goodwill, has publicly rebuked Taiwan over the referendum. The EU,
in contrast, will stick to private warnings for the moment, to avoid
'playing into the hands' of Taiwan's 'populist' president, Chen
Shui-bian, by giving him 'undesirable' publicity. ... U.N.
membership for Taiwan is a long-lost cause, says the Economist, and
Chen's referendum plan is at heart an electoral ploy ahead of next
year's presidential poll. Meanwhile, Taipei's United Daily News
reported Sunday that Washington is so angry at President Chen's U.N.
referendum plan that it has halted the sale of 66 F-16C/D
jetfighters to Taiwan. The U.S., an avowed defender of Taiwan,
won't provide any ammunition for Chen, who will leave office next
May."

C) "China filling up Military Power Gap Left by US"

Sushil Seth, a writer based in Australia, opined in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] (7/17):

"While the US is over-stretched in Iraq and increasingly mired in
domestic politics, China is systematically modernizing and expanding
its military capability. Its defense budget has seen double-digit
annual increases in recent years. It is working to develop
anti-satellite missile capability, as well as a nuclear submarine
fleet equipped with long-range nuclear missiles. ... This has
consequences not only for the US for the region. China might not
yet be ready to directly challenge US military supremacy, but its
military capability will increasingly make it difficult for the US
to confront it without serious costs. In short, China's power is
likely to progressively neutralize US military power. ...

"In the Asia-Pacific region, China is increasingly seen with a
mixture of awe and admiration. Its rapid economic growth, its sheer
size in economic and political terms and its growing military power
appear to be overwhelming. With much of world news concentrated on
the perceived US debacle in Iraq and a sense of its declining power,
China increasingly appears to be the new rising superpower. It is
no wonder then that more and more countries in the region are
accommodating themselves to this new 'reality,' while ignoring
China's enormous social, economic and political problems and
contradictions that make it very fragile. ... The US needs to
reorient its military policies lest China end up filling the gap by
default -- as is happening in the Asia Pacific."

YOUNG

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