Cablegate: Media Reaction: Taiwan's Un Referendum
DE RUEHIN #1988/01 2411052
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 291052Z AUG 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6585
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7182
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8438
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001988
DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - NIDA EMMONS
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: TAIWAN'S UN REFERENDUM
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese- and English-language dailies
August 29 gave significant reporting and editorial coverage to U.S.
Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte's exclusive interview with
the Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV on Taiwan's UN referendum Monday.
Both the centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" and the pro-unification
"United Daily News," as well as the three English-language dailies
-- "Taipei Times," "China Post," and "Taiwan News" -- all
front-paged Negroponte's remarks that the push for the UN referendum
is akin to a step toward Taiwan independence and is thus "a
mistake." All the papers also ran the response by Taiwan Foreign
Minister James Huang, who voiced "deep regret" over Negroponte's
remarks. The pro-unification "United Daily News" ran an exclusive
banner headline on page three that said "'Opposing Taiwan's UN
Referendum,' [China's Taiwan Affairs Office Director] Chen Yun-lin
Is Scheduled to Visit the United States in September."
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, the "Free Talk" column
in the pro-independence "Liberty Times" criticized U.S. Deputy
Secretary of State John Negroponte's remarks and said he has let
down American ancestors who sacrificed their lives in the U.S. war
of independence. A separate "Liberty Times" analysis interpreted
Negroponte's remarks as Washington joining hands with Beijing to
intimidate Taiwan. An editorial in the mass-circulation "Apple
Daily" said Negroponte's interview reflected Washington's upset and
desperation against President Chen Shui-bian. An editorial in the
centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" chimed in by saying that
Negroponte's remarks signified that the United States has picked a
tune with regard to Taiwan's UN referendum. A "United Daily News"
editorial lashed out at President Chen for his push for the UN
referendum and called Negroponte's remarks an "ultimatum" for
Taiwan. A separate "United Daily News" analysis tossed off the
question as to whether there is a "next step" for Washington to deal
with Taiwan's UN referendum. An editorial in the conservative,
pro-unification, English-language "China Post," on the other hand,
suggested that Taiwan focus on joining smaller world organizations
such as the International Monetary Fund. End summary.
A) "Have the American Superiors Forgot Their Origin?"
The "Free Talk" column in the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
[circulation: 720,000] wrote (8/29):
"... Mounting voices are heard in the international community
opposing Taiwan's bid to join the UN, and it is not surprising at
all, since this is just a reflection of the reality of international
politics. What one can hardly imagine is that the United States has
unexpectedly joined the opposition camp, and it has played the role
of vanguard, with an attitude more proactive than that of China's.
"The United States has downgraded its courtesy treatment for
A-Bian's transit for this particular reason in an attempt to
humiliate him deliberately. But it seems that Washington still
finds it unsatisfactory, so it had Deputy Secretary of State John
Negroponte spout rhetoric on TV, openly opposing Taiwan's plan to
hold a referendum on its UN bid under the name 'Taiwan' and calling
the move a step towards a declaration of Taiwan independence. Even
though Taiwan, as a small country, cannot afford to offend, nor dare
talk back to, the official remarks of this superior U.S. official,
he should engage in introspection and ask himself: How in the world
is he able to face the ancestors who sacrificed their lives in the
U.S. war of independence? ..."
B) "U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Should Listen to Taiwan's Voices
Cried out by 'Chthonic' Band"
Washington correspondent Nadia Tsao noted in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000] (8/29):
"Immediately following Chinese President Hu Jintao's recent public
announcement that the only task of the People's Liberation Army is
to fight Taiwan, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte
warned on Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV that Taiwan's UN referendum is
[a step towards] an alteration of the status quo and towards a
declaration of independence. For the Taiwan people, Washington
seems to be joining hands with Beijing to intimidate Taiwan.
"Negroponte emphasized that he was talking about this issue in the
context of the solid friendship between the United States and
Taiwan. But even so, following mounting public opinion supporting
Taiwan's UN bid, one cannot help but feel concerned about
Washington's approach -- namely, whether the United States is trying
to replace Beijing as an unwelcome voice in the campaign leading up
to Taiwan's elections [next year], or even to [give] certain Taiwan
political figures in Taiwan [an opportunity] to operate in reverse
by playing the anti-U.S. card. ..."
C) "A-Bian Toying with the Americans"
The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 530,000]
"The more the United States opposes the UN referendum, the more
vigorous A-Bian gets. The United States offered the lowest-ever
courtesy treatment to A-Bian, nearly similar to humiliation, but
A-Bian endured it gladly. For A-Bian during his previous trips to
Central America, the allies were his secondary targets, while
transiting major U.S. cities was his real goal. Now A-Bian has
given up on the United States, just as the United States has given
up on A-Bian. Bilateral relations have entered a new stage.
"The deputy secretary of state of the United States said A-Bian's
push for the UN referendum is 'a step towards a declaration of
independence for Taiwan, towards an alteration of the status quo."
What a great statement! For a long period of time, Taiwan, the
United States and China have each reserved the final say on how to
define so-called 'Taiwan independence.' Washington could deny
China's definition, and for the United States, only its own
definition counts. As long as Washington does not believe Taiwan is
moving toward independence, the United States can disregard it, no
matter how others complain about it. On the surface, this is
strategic ambiguity, but in reality, it is hegemony. Hegemonic
power only cares about and regards its own argument as reasonable;
all it wants is just to hold on firmly to the authority to control
the situation across the Taiwan Strait.
"The U.S. deputy secretary of state's remarks on Taiwan moving
toward independence reflected the United States' upset and
desperation against A-Bian on the one hand, and also the United
States' lack of wisdom. The United States can list plenty of
reasons to oppose [Taiwan's] UN referendum, but it does not
necessarily have to cite the grand [reason of] 'Taiwan
independence.' Using this reason exactly fits China's wishes.
China can now quote the United States as saying that A-Bian is
pushing for Taiwan independence and attempting to alter the status
quo and, as a result, it can take action, and there is no reason for
the United States to intervene. ..."
D) "'Taiwan's UN Bid' Is for Domestic Consumption After All"
The centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 400,000]
"... Now the issue of 'Taiwan's UN bid' seems to have fallen into a
dead end on the international stage. It goes without saying that
Taiwan is unable to enter the UN; nonetheless, the president visited
other countries every year giving out a lot of money, but he could
not even get a few sentences [supporting Taiwan's UN bid] included
in the communique Taiwan signed with its allies during the summit.
In addition, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte pointed
out openly yesterday that Taiwan's 'UN referendum' is the first step
towards Taiwan independence. [His statement] signified that the
United States has already picked a tune on this subject. In other
words, when all Taiwan's allies withdraw their support one by one at
a time when the United States openly stated its opposition, will
[Taiwan] be able to continue pushing its 'UN bid?' Following the
repetitive manipulations on 'Taiwan's UN bid' over the past few
years, not only have we not seen more possibilities being exploited,
but we have also seen [Taiwan's] leeway getting smaller and smaller.
Even [Taiwan's] initial diplomatic capital is being eroded rapidly.
In the end, it seems that the only thing Taiwan can do is to
manipulate [the issue] at home for campaigning's sake!"
E) "Ultimatum: Does Taiwan Still Want the United States as Its
The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
"Prior to Chen Shui-bian's scheduled return to Taiwan from his trip
[to Central America], U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte
gave a sincere talk, in which every sentence he said was aimed at
admonishing Chen to stop the 'UN referendum' before it is too late,
not to take the risk of altering the cross-Strait status quo, and
not to toy with the U.S. friendship. In reality, this sounds
exactly like an ultimatum.
"Negroponte put up a higher posture and defined the 'UN referendum'
as 'a step towards a declaration of independence of Taiwan, towards
an alteration of the status quo." Once this 'definition' was made,
it was akin to setting a 'criterion of victory or defeat' for the
confrontation between the United States and Chen. If Washington
allows Chen to push for the 'UN referendum,' it will be like showing
weakness to Chen, sitting idly by and watching him as he pushes for
Taiwan independence and alters the status quo. In contrast, if the
United States does not allow Chen to push for Taiwan independence
and alter the status quo, it has to stop the 'UN referendum.'
Negroponte's remarks were like a showdown with Chen, to see whether
it is Chen or the United States that is able to carry on.
"The fact that Negroponte accepted the interview with Hong
Kong-based Phoenix TV, during which the only topic he spoke about
was [Taiwan's] 'UN referendum,' was, without a doubt, meant to speak
to the ears of the Chinese authorities. China is opposed to 'de
jure Taiwan independence' and 'changes in the status quo.' Now that
Negroponte regards the 'UN referendum' as 'a step towards a
declaration of independence for Taiwan, towards an alteration of the
status quo,' it is akin to showing that the United States has
identified with the red line drawn by China, and that it will hold
onto this 'red line' together with China in terms of the 'UN
referendum.' This paper has long since warned that Chen's
'anti-China' manipulation has transformed into 'anti-U.S.,' and now
the warning has been proved. ...
"The angle that is most noteworthy during the interview was that
Negroponte emphasized the friendship between Taiwan and the United
States at the beginning and end of the interview. He started by
saying that 'Taiwan has no better friend than the United States,'
and that the United States strongly supports Taiwan's democracy and
economy, and it is committed to the defense of Taiwan through the
Taiwan Relations Act. But then he changed his tone by pointing out
from various angles that the 'UN referendum' does not meet Taiwan's
interests; [Negroponte] sounded as if the Taiwan authorities are the
betrayer of its own interests, whereas the United States is the
protector of Taiwan's interests. In this vein, under Negroponte's
structure, the 'UN referendum' that the Taiwan authorities are
pushing is actually 'harmful to Taiwan,' while the United States'
attempt to stop the 'UN referendum' is [out of] its 'love for
Taiwan.' Judging from this, it is evident that the United States
wants to have a dialogue with the Taiwan people via this interview,
in hopes that the Taiwan people will believe that Washington can see
Taiwan's interests more clearly than Chen.
"... The entire interview began with [the sentence that] 'Taiwan has
no better friend than the United States' and ended with
'(maintaining Taiwan-U.S. friendship) has to be done in a serious
and responsible way.' The entire question and answer section was
threaded with two axes -- one is [Washington's] opposition to the
'UN referendum' and the other emphasizes 'Taiwan-U.S. friendship.'
Its overtones were: Does Taiwan still want the United States as its
"Negroponte's 'ultimatum' has pointed out: The United States will
use the matter of whether it can stop the 'UN referendum' to test
the United States' role in the chess game across the Taiwan Strait.
If the United States fails to suppress the UN referendum, [it means
that] it cannot keep Chen under control, and it is therefore unable
to keep the DPP and Taiwan independence under control. In that
vein, it is unable to justify itself to China and is thus unable to
maintain the cross-Strait policy that it 'opposes attempts by either
side [of the Taiwan Strait] to change the status quo unilaterally.'
The criterion to determine the confrontation between the United
States and Chen is exactly that if Chen's 'UN referendum' wins, it
means that Washington's cross-Strait policy of 'opposing attempts to
change the status quo unilaterally' loses!
"While transiting the United States, Chen receives the U.S.
representative in his plane with a 'UN for Taiwan' sticker on his
chest. The move was akin to declaring war against the U.S.
authorities openly. Likewise, the U.S. authorities' move to have
its deputy secretary of state offer the remarks on 'Taiwan's
interests/U.S. friendship' prior to Chen's return to Taiwan can be
viewed as a gesture to meet Chen head-on in battle. ..."
F) "Other Than Making Strongly-worded Remarks, Will the United
States Take the Next Step?"
Washington correspondent Vincent Chang noted in the pro-unification
"United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000] (8/29):
"... The fact that the U.S. government chose to have John Negroponte
step forward to make such remarks almost indicated that the 'Taiwan
authorities' are irresponsible and are 'disturbing the situation
across the Taiwan Strait.' On the one hand, Washington intended to
upgrade the level [of the official] who made the remarks in order to
warn 'the Taiwan authorities,' and on the other hand, it has
upgraded the [level] of the United States' 'crisis warning' in
handling Taiwan's UN referendum.
"The U.S. position of 'not supporting' Taiwan independence but not
stating in public its 'opposition,' either, was originally an
approach made in consideration of the major framework of the
triangular relationship among the United States, China and Taiwan.
Now that the United States has directly defined the single matter of
Taiwan's UN referendum as a move 'toward Taiwan independence that
the United States opposes,' it means that Chen Shui-bian does not
need to declare Taiwan independence; and if the UN referendum is
held, Washington will deem it as a move equivalent to a declaration
of Taiwan independence. As a result, the 'Four Nos' incantation
that Washington has been using to box Chen in will then fall apart!
"Negroponte's remarks were strong enough, but the outside world is
most curious about and observing whether there will be a 'next step'
for the United States. This is a question that Washington often
asks Chen, but the one that should be asked this question is perhaps
the United States itself, which knows nothing but making
G) "Fun with Numbers in Quixotic U.N. Bid"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (8/29):
"... Joining the U.N. without the blessing of China is a virtual
impossibility. Next month a cluster of Taiwan's allies -- including
Gambia, Swaziland, Tuvalu, Belize, Burkina Faso, Honduras, Kiribati,
Malawi, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Saint Vincent and the
Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, and the
Solomon Islands -- will try again to place Taiwan's U.N. bid on the
assembly's agenda, though that's as far as it will get. China is a
permanent member of the U.N. Security Council with the power of
final veto. Taiwan's people host many hopes and aspirations for
their country. Some, no doubt, would support a hypothetical
Taiwanese moon landing. But pragmatism and realism is the way of
logic and the way of progress. Instead of the dreamy moon landing,
Taiwan could, if it desired, realistically build satellites or even
a robot space explorer. And instead of the quixotic U.N. bid,
Taiwan should more rightly focus on joining, and actively
participating in, smaller world organizations like the IMF."