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

VZCZCXYZ0002
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #2022/01 2472347
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 042347Z SEP 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6645
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7204
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8458

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 002022

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

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: U.S.-TAIWAN RELATIONS


1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese- and English-language dailies
gave significant reporting and editorial coverage September 1-4 to
the remarks by White House National Security Council senior director
for Asian affairs Dennis Wilder last Friday that neither Taiwan nor
the Republic of China is a state in the international community, and
that Washington finds the DPP's attempts to call for a UN referendum
"a little bit perplexing." News coverage also focused on the Blue
and the Green camps' interpretation of, and reaction to, Wilder's
remarks; on President Chen Shui-bian's interview with Sanlih TV last
Friday; on Beijing's alleged "opposition" to the KMT's proposed UN
referendum; and on a Taiwan business tycoon who was reportedly
barred from leaving China because of a dispute with its Chinese
partner over the ownership of a department store in Beijing. The
centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" front-paged a banner headline
September 1 that read "United States: Neither Taiwan nor ROC is a
State." The same paper also ran a banner headline on page two the
same day that said "Bian: Taiwan Will Join the UN as a New
Country."

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an analysis in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" criticized the United States for
humiliating Taiwan and thus harming its own interests. A "Liberty
Times" column solemnly protested the United States for unreasonably
intervening in Taiwan's efforts to pursue the normalization of the
country. An editorial in the pro-independence, English-language
"Taipei Times" chimed in saying Washington is intensifying its
efforts to block Taiwan's UN referendum. An editorial in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" said Taiwan needs
not worry about the meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush
and his Chinese counterpart at the APEC leaders' meeting this week.
An editorial in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily," however, said
that Taiwan's UN referendum is nothing but a "birdcage game" that
will not change anything. A "China Times" editorial, on the other
hand, said the situation will deteriorate if the United States
continues to handle Taiwan's push for the UN referendum with a rude
and aloof approach. An editorial in the pro-unification "United
Daily News" said President Chen and President Bush are now engaged
in a race to see who is the coward and who will back down from the
game first. An editorial in the conservative, pro-unification,
English-language "China Post" argued that the ROC's statehood has
never been "undecided," as claimed by Wilder. End summary.

A) "The United States Humiliates Taiwan and Thus Harms Its Own
Interests"

Deputy Editor-in-Chief Tzou Jiing-wen noted in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000] (9/3):

"... Taiwan will hold a UN referendum in tandem with the
presidential election in March, 2008, and there is no way this
reality will be changed. Both the DPP and the KMT proposed their
own [versions of the] UN referendum, and the party that withdraws
its referendum first will surely fall apart. This fact reflects the
self-determination and dignity of Taiwan voters. As a result, no
matter how mercilessly Uncle Sam beats Taiwan, it will never achieve
the objective of getting Taiwan not to hold a referendum. The only
'beneficial effect' left [for the United States] to humiliate Taiwan
is thus to let Communist China get what it wants. ...

"But the fact that Uncle Sam has spent so much time and energy
demanding that Taiwan subject itself to servile treatment that even
a sub-colony does not deserve will stir up anti-U.S. sentiment in
its most loyal ally. The United States' trampling on its American
values will also leave a deep mark in the hearts of [our] 23 million
people, forcing the Taiwan government no longer to dare to bow to
Washington's will when weighing American interests in Taiwan in the
future. In particular, Taiwan's previous strategic line of
following no one but the United States will face challenges from
public opinion and thus be forced to find another way out. ... Once
the Taiwan-U.S. alliance becomes loose, the biggest beneficiary will
be China. Why on earth did the United States do what it did? It is
such a huge mistake."

B) "Taiwan's Destiny"

The "Free Talk" column in the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
[circulation: 720,000] noted (9/1):

"... It is an irrevocable fact that Taiwan is an independent
sovereign state, and that it and China do not come under the
jurisdiction of one other. Taiwan does not need the United States
to define its national status, nor does the United States have the
right to do so. [White House National Security Council senior
director for Asian affairs] Dennis Wilder's remarks, which were full
of hegemonic thinking, have unreasonably intervened in the Taiwan
people's efforts in pursuit of the normalization of their country.
Taiwan thus must solemnly protest to the United States.

"China attempts to annex Taiwan and has brutally and savagely

suppressed Taiwan's national status, but the fact that Taiwan is
independent outside China can best meet the common interests of the
international community, including the United States and other
Asia-Pacific nations. Wilder denied Taiwan's national status and
echoed China's position, a move that is akin to pushing Taiwan
toward being jointly managed by the United States and China and
towards China's jaws of death. We want to question strongly whether
Wilder's remarks represent a change in the United States' policy
toward Taiwan. Did his remarks violate U.S. interests and the
United States' Taiwan Relations Act? Did he make the remarks just
for the short-term benefit of the United States colluding with
China, regardless of the will of the 23 million people in Taiwan?"


C) "Friends Can Be Worse Than Enemies"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (9/4):

"... Forty-five years later, as President Chen Shui-bian continues
to rattle Washington by seeking to give his people the rights that
morally should be theirs, we can expect the US government will
intensify its efforts to block his every move. In the coming months,
a plethora of news, speeches and rumors seeded here and there will
dapple politics and media here and in the US. Most of it will be
deniable, some even outright false, but like a full orchestra the
sum of the seemingly dissonant instruments will coalesce into a
symphony of sorts. And the theme will be an undeniable one, for it
has become obvious that Washington wants the troublesome Democratic
Progressive Party (DPP) out of power. Unless its presidential
candidate, Frank Hsieh, drastically changes course -- which would
represent a betrayal of the DPP's raison d'etre -- he, too, will be
subjected to similar propaganda.

"The US is an unequaled master at the game and, when it didn't
achieve it via the CIA or militarily, it has used its political and
economic clout, as well as its conservative media, to interfere in
foreign elections and, occasionally, change governments. Ideological
opponents, suspected communists, alleged state sponsors of terrorism
or would-be nuclear proliferators are not alone in facing the threat
of Washington's pressure. As the Diefenbaker example shows us, even
its closest, democratic allies can fall from grace with Washington.
..."

D) "APEC Meet Holds No Big Worries"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (9/4):

"In a news briefing August 30, United States National Security
Council senior adviser Dennis Wilder confirmed that U.S. President
George W. Bush and People's Republic of China State Chairman Hu
Jintao will discuss the issue of Taiwan's proposed referendums on
membership in the United Nations when the two leaders meet in a
bilateral summit during the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation
forum leadership meetings, which began Sunday in Sydney, Australia.
The Bush-Hu meeting is widely seen as a thermometer of the heat in
the triangular relationship between the U.S., the PRC and Taiwan and
every nuance in the wording of statements in the wake of the meeting
will be scrutinized, interpreted and spun by Taiwan's media and
politicians. ...

"Nevertheless, despite the controversy triggered by the distortion
of Wilder's remarks into a supposed claim that 'Taiwan is not a
country,' we believe such worries may be somewhat exaggerated and
may reflect the ingrained lack of confidence or even cowardice of
politicians and pundits in the former ruling party's camp. ... From
the standpoint of Chen and other DPP politicians who believe that
Taiwan is doing the right thing by applying to enter the U.N., any
fallout from the Bush-Hu mini-summit will be important but not
critical to the triangular relations between Taiwan, the U.S. and
the PRC and will not endanger the long-lasting friendship between
the U.S. and Taiwan for several reasons. First, the cross-strait
issue is fundamentally a political matter, and APEC remains first
and foremost a multilateral economic forum. ...

"Hence, while Hu may attempt to put pressure on Bush to take a
harder stand against Taiwan's proposed referendum on entry into the
U.N., the wording of any reply by the U.S. president is likely to be
abstract and vague. As the campaign to the November 2008
presidential election heats up, Bush also has to be careful about
the possibility that he and his Republican Party may be hurt by
criticizing Taiwan and President Chen too sharply over the proposed
U.N. referendum and Taiwan's application to join the U.N.,
especially if Washington is perceived as ganging up with the Chinese
Communist regime in the PRC to suppress Taiwan's democracy.

"Thirdly, as Washington is striving to rebuild its political capital
in the region, any display of collaboration with the PRC to suppress

democracy in Taiwan directly conflicts with Bush's own stated goal
of 'bringing democracy and freedom to the world' and will be seen as
a sign of craven surrender on the ideological front to the PRC's
'rising Chinese nationalism' and neo-authoritarianism in the region
and in the U.N. as well. Fourthly, as the proposal for Taiwan to
strive to enter the U.N. has overwhelming multi-partisan support,
open opposition by Washington to this democratic demand could well
fuel disappointment with Washington and spur anti-American
sentiments among the traditionally pro-American 'pro-green'
community. ..."

E) "Save China's Face"

The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 530,000]
editorialized (9/1):

"... Frankly speaking, the United States' making a posture will not
have any substantive influence on Taiwan. Taiwan buying less
weaponry will not do any damage to its national defense, either, as
Taiwan's security does rely on the United States' Pacific Command.
Regardless of how many unfavorable remarks Washington has made, it
will not alter its security layout in the Asia-Pacific region. The
United States has a good understanding of how much Taiwan weighs in
its mind. This is why Washington is annoyed with A-Bian.

"Taiwan's UN referendum is nothing but a birdcage game; no matter
how excited it gets, it is limited to the island of Taiwan only.
Both the United States and China are waiting for A-Bian to step
down; nothing will count until A-Bian steps down. Will China
activate its 'Anti-Secession Law'? Clearly that will be a move to
ask for trouble for itself! Why doesn't it try to save its face by
asking Washington to scold Taipei[?]!"

F) "The United States Has Finally Dealt a Heavy Blow to Taiwan"

The centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (9/1):

"... The United States should also examine its own mistakes when it
comes to Taiwan's UN referendum, which is now running like a
derailed train without knowing when it will stop. Washington has
always set its mind on the fact that it is President Chen who has
been playing tricks for campaigning, so it has put the focus of its
negotiations and pressure on Chen, with some DPP and KMT
high-ranking officials involved at most. But the problem is that
the reason Chen toys with this issue in such a way that the KMT has
to follow his game is of course because [the issue] has the support
of Taiwan's public opinion. The United States, when dealing with
this issue, has completely ignored the Taiwan people's feelings; it
has neither proactively communicated with the Taiwan people nor
completely, sincerely and respectfully explained Washington's
concerns to the Taiwan people. It simply believes that the whole
issue hinged on Chen's thinking and that once it could handle Chen,
the matter would be resolved. It has no idea that when the momentum
of the issue got started, plus the public opinion, not even Chen was
able to backpedal it. ...

"Without having communicated fully with the Taiwan people, the
[United States] dealt a heavy and early blow [to Taiwan], which got
slapped by its old friend without having made any mistake. Such a
development has hurt the Taiwan people's heart badly, and the Taiwan
people feel that they have been betrayed by a friend. The rift
between Taipei and Washington not only exists between the two
governments but has also gradually grown deep between the two
peoples. The backlash in [Taiwan's] private sector may well
transform itself directly into support for the UN referendum. If
the United States continues to deal with the matter a rude and aloof
approach like a big brother, the situation will further deteriorate.
..."

G) "Chen Shui-bian and George W. Bush are Competing against Each
Other to See Who is a Coward [Ed. Note: a game of "chicken"]"

The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (9/1):

"... The Bush administration's definition of the 'UN referendum' as
'a step toward a declaration of Taiwan independence and an
alteration of the status quo' was aimed at forcing Chen Shui-bian to
jump out of the car [Ed. Note: as in a game of chicken]. But the
fact that Chen has even decorated the Presidential Office as a
spiritual fortress of the 'UN referendum' with much fanfare
indicated that he has no intent of jumping out of the car. ...

"Chen seems to be on the horns of a dilemma. He has turned the 'UN
referendum' into such a sensational and attention-grabbing issue
that it is like giving himself no possibility to jump out of the
car. But the chances are slim for Chen to allow Washington to
change or ask him to back down on his 'cross-Strait policy.' ...

The United States is the most important 'pillar' of Taiwan's
survival in the international community. Washington believes that
the 'UN referendum' has harmed its policy of 'no change in the
status quo across the Taiwan Strait' and has fundamentally violated
the 'Taiwan interests.' Taiwan must ponder now whether it wants to
repudiate the United States' 'cross-Strait policy' and to deny the
U.S. role as a pillar of Taiwan's survival in the international
community. Moreover, the purpose of the 'UN referendum' was never
to 'enter the UN' but to take advantage of the 'referendum' to
ignite public outrage. ... Taiwan cannot possibly enter the UN, and
it has fallen out with the United States. Is this indeed the last
gift Chen will give to Taiwan? ..."

H) "ROC's Statehood Was Never 'Undecided'"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (9/2):

"... Most likely, Mr. Wilder was referring to the international
community's inaction on our repeated bids to take part in
international organizations, which have been fiercely opposed by
Beijing. Indeed, it was fortunate that Mr. Wilder appeared to leave
a door open for a change in U.S. policy by suggesting our status was
somehow 'undecided,' rather than choosing to comply with Beijing's
claim that our status is 'decided,' meaning that Taiwan is a part of
the communist People's Republic of China. Still, we believe it
would be better if Washington refrained from declaring our status to
be some kind of an open question, since this may prompt Beijing to
demand that the issue be 'decided,' such as by orchestrating a
resolution in the United Nations Security Council or U.N. General
Assembly. ...

"With war still raging in Iraq and Afghanistan and the threat of
global terrorism still high, it is clear that the United States has
bigger fish to fry on the world stage than deal with our
government's aspirations, which are clearly more aimed at scoring
points on election day than they are at actually gaining
international status."

WANG

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