Cablegate: Media Reaction: The U.S. And Taiwan's Un Referendum
DE RUEHIN #2109/01 2560951
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 130951Z SEP 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6793
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7251
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8506
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 002109
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: THE U.S. AND TAIWAN'S UN REFERENDUM
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese and English language dailies on
September 13th gave significant reporting and editorial coverage to
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Christensen's
speech, which was delivered at the U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry
Conference in Annapolis Tuesday, September 11. 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
Christensen's comment on Taiwan's UN referendum. Several papers
even carried excerpt translations of Christensen's speech on their
inside pages, as well as the reactions by Taiwan's ruling and
opposition parties. The centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" ran a
banner headline on page three that read "At this Sensitive Moment,
Christensen Unveils the False Appearance of the UN Referendum."
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an editorial in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times," Taiwan's biggest-circulation
daily, said despite opposition from the United States, Taiwan will
never stop its footsteps marching toward the UN. A separate
"Liberty Times" analysis chimed in by saying Taiwan's democracy is
not defined by the United States. An editorial in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" said Washington has
failed to grasp the meaning of Taiwan's UN referendum. An op-ed in
the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" urged Taiwan
to make the UN referendum an issue in the United States. An
editorial in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily," however, said
President Chen Shui-bian's push for the UN referendum is a move to
ask for humiliation himself. An editorial in the pro-unification
"United Daily News" sought to interpret Christensen's speech from
the U.S. perspective and concluded that the United States believes
Chen is the betrayer of Taiwan's interests. An editorial in the
conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post" called
the recent remarks by the U.S. officials "a blow to the DPP's
referendum campaign." End summary.
A) "Taiwan Will Never Stop Halfway Its Footsteps Marching towards
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000]
"... Christensen's speech can be viewed as the most straightforward
illustration of the U.S. policy toward Taiwan over the past few
years. He not only rebutted the various recent remarks by the Bian
administration over the UN referendum but also explained the United
States' Taiwan policy in the clearest manner. It is obvious that
following this speech, Washington's Taiwan policy has taken on a
complete shape, and there will no longer be room for ambiguity. It
remains to be seen and estimated as to what impact this move by the
U.S. government will have on the future development of the
cross-Strait situation. But Christensen's key argument was
evidently built on a seriously flawed premise, which must be
clarified and corrected here, so that people in the world will
understand the whole story, Taiwan's inferior situation and where
the truth and justice lie. This way they will not have any
misunderstanding of the justified appeal of the Taiwan people's UN
referendum and regard the victim Taiwan as a troublemaker.
"An analysis of Christensen's speech showed that there are two main
arguments: First, the UN referendum has stepped on China's red
line, so Taiwan is provoking China, which has affected regional
peace and stability. Second, Christensen has drawn a line between
the Taiwan people and the Bian administration and regards the UN
referendum as President Chen's ploy to manipulate the campaign by
violating the Four No's pledge. Both arguments contain serious
errors. First, the UN referendum is designated to safeguard the
cross-Strait status quo, enabling the status quo of 'China and
Taiwan are each a country on one side [of the Taiwan Strait]' to be
confirmed by the international community through [Taiwan's]
participating in organizations like the UN. Taiwan was originally
an independent sovereign country, and its participation in the UN is
an essential part to turn it into a normal country. It is not that
Taiwan will become independent because it joins the UN. The
referendum therefore will not alter the status quo. ... Besides,
regarding the red line on cross-Strait issues, why is it not drawn
according to the principle of reciprocity and mutual trust among
Washington, Beijing and Taipei and a consensus reached by respecting
the existing reality, but set unilaterally by China? Would it
really meet the U.S. interests if the red line across the Taiwan
Strait is defined by China, which constrains Taiwan and forces it to
tilt toward China? ...
"Second, even though the UN referendum has been promoted by the Bian
administration, it has solicited over 70 percent of public support,
which indicated that the UN bid is Taiwan's mainstream public
opinion. The fact that the [island's] nativist regime raised this
UN referendum was to address the public request, and it cannot
possibly dominate such a movement. ...
"The United States is a solid ally of Taiwan, and both sides share
common political and economic interests and the core values of
democracy. As a result, even though the Bush administration has
more than once expressed opposition to the UN referendum - something
that the Taiwan people feel sorry about, nevertheless it will not
affect our friendship, nor will it weaken the Taiwan people's
determination to join the UN. In other words, the Taiwan people can
understand Washington's worry about China taking reckless moves, but
they will not stop halfway their footsteps marching toward the UN.
B) "Taiwan's Democracy Is not Defined by the United States"
Deputy Editor-in-Chief Tsou Jiing-wen noted in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000] (9/13):
"... It is Washington's choice, based on U.S. national interests, to
follow China's request to command Taiwan. Taiwan can only feel sorry
about it. But, [in the remarks by] Thomas Christensen, and other
people like John Negroponte and Dennis Wilder, there is a error in
their premise: The right to determine whether Taiwan needs a
referendum does not lie in the 'Taiwan leaders,' but the Taiwan
people who have the right to vote. ...
"The United States must come up with convincing reasons if it wants
to negotiate with the Taiwan people to revoke such a proposal. If
Washington fails to put itself in Taiwan's shoes, simply elaborates
to Taiwan by unilaterally and forcefully pouring the Chinese
definition and U.S. interests on the island, and asks Taiwan to cut
off its own interests, the final result will be the same even if it
is President George W. Bush who personally reads out the imperial
decree from Beijing. All the moves will only add fuel to the fire.
"Thus, Christensen has worried too much when he said the United
States will not allow Taipei to decide the U.S. position. Taiwan
has never had such arrogance as to believe it is the master of the
world. But the sentence 'Taiwan will not allow the United States
and China to determine its position' is something that the Taiwan
people want to give back to Christensen."
C) "Washington Fails to Grasp Meaning of U.N. Referenda"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (9/13):
"... We believe Christensen's speech again shows the inability of
Washington policy makers to perceive why the DPP government is
intent on proposing this initiative and what is actually at stake.
This blindness results in part from Christensen's premise that
Washington 'does not recognize Taiwan as a state,' a position that
contradicts the realities that Taiwan has achieved all of the
qualifications of a self-governing 'state.' Claiming that most
Taiwan citizens accept our exclusion from the international
community as 'a fact of life,' Christensen also neglects the fact
that although opinion polls show majority support for maintaining
the 'status quo,' our people have a rather different definition of
our current status than posited by Washington, as shown by the
survey of 1,068 Taiwan adults released by the Taiwan Thinktank in
early September that showed 76 percent believe "Taiwan is a
sovereign and independent state" separate from the PRC.
"Christensen ignores the fact that Washington already officially
uses the name 'Taiwan' in the Taiwan Relations Act and other
contexts, but seems to imply that we should remain content with the
"Republic of China" moniker even though it cannot be used outside of
our borders. Washington fails to appreciate that most of our 23
million people believe that they merit equal treatment with the rest
of the world's people and a proper role as a developed and
democratic state in the world community. Christensen's military
definition of 'strength' is also gravely naive as the fundamental
factor in the ability of a nation to defend itself from aggression
or annexation is precisely its sense of national cohesion and unity.
The effort by the DPP government to consolidate and deepen Taiwan's
democracy in the face of the military and diplomatic threat posed by
the PRC is therefore no less critical to Taiwan's security than the
arms procurement from the U.S.
"Both referenda are therefore key democratic processes toward the
formation of a consensus on national identity that is absolutely
essential for the defense of Taiwan's survival as an independent
democratic state and are not 'unnecessary provocations.'
Christensen also ignores Washington's hefty contributions to the
current crisis through its support of Beijing's resolution in the
Paris-based World Animal Health Society in late May that reduced
Taiwan's status from a full member to a 'non-sovereign regional
member' and defined Taiwan as part of the PRC, and by its tardiness
in objecting to the statement in late March by U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that 'for the purposes of the United
Nations, Taiwan is an integral part of the PRC.'
"These developments marked a major unilateral change in Taiwan's
status in the international community, already being pushed by the
PRC, that has 'provoked' President Chen's formal application to join
the U.N. under the name of 'Taiwan' as a defensive move to uphold
the status quo of Taiwan's autonomous identity from the PRC.
Christensen's assumption that Taiwan's security is not threatened so
long as Taiwan 'behaves' in the face of PRC threats to squeeze
Taiwan's international space would assume that Taiwan's people
should put 'blind faith' for their security in the U.S. We cannot
afford to be so naive."
D) "Make the Referendum an Issue in the US"
Michael Lin, a political commentator, opined in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
"... The US of course feels that putting pressure on Taiwan is the
most simple and effective way to preserve stability in the Taiwan
Strait. Can the US really afford to boss Taiwan around like this?
Does it really not need Taiwan's strategically advantageous
geographic position to protect its own interests? Now that Taiwan
is in a situation where it holds a lot of bargaining chips, the
first thing it should do is change its diplomatic [sic] toward the
US from being the weak party and nodding in agreement to everything
the US says, to loudly and bravely telling the US the wrongs of its
"one China" policy and pointing out why this policy is not
beneficial to the US. ...
"The two sides of the Strait aren't able to resolve their
conflicting opinions as long as the US maintains its policy of
keeping the issue of Taiwan's sovereignty unclear. This is the fuse
that might set off the powder keg that is the situation in the
Taiwan Strait, and that is the dilemma facing the US. Moreover,
Taiwan should use the problem of North Korea to improve its
international circumstances and influence the upcoming presidential
elections in the US. US President George W. Bush has already been
reduced to a lame duck. Taiwan should take advantage of the
referendum issue to spark serious debate about the position of
Taiwan in the US.
"Through US organizations that sympathize with Taiwan, think tanks
and the power of public opinion, the Taiwanese government should
make Taiwan a major international issue during the US presidential
election campaign. ... It should urge the future leaders of the US
that the best strategy for them in Asia is to correct or change
their old 'one China' policy. This way, Taiwan can turn defeat into
victory, and create a favorable space for Taiwan to enter the UN
with the support of the US."
E) "Taiwan Asking for Humiliation Itself"
The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 530,000]
"U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Christensen harshly
criticized that the UN referendum is a move to change [Taiwan's]
national name. ... Washington, in terms of its policy, has drawn a
line between Bian and the Taiwan people. It supports Taiwan but not
Bian; it supports Taiwan's democracy and freedom but opposes Taiwan
independence. It needs a strong and moderate Taiwan but not one
that provokes its superior neighbor. ... Bian is clearly aware of
the U.S. difficulties but it has consistently put the United States
on a short leash, playing it indirectly as an ethnic card for
campaigning purposes. How can the United States not get piqued up?
What A-Bain has been doing is like asking for humiliation himself!"
F) "U.S. Perspective: Chen Shui-bian Is the Betrayer of Taiwan's
The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
"If one wants to come up with a core perspective after a close
reading of U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas
Christensen's comment on the 'UN referendum,' it will be: the United
States believes that Chen Shui-bian is a betrayer of Taiwan's
interests. To extend such an interpretation, one can say that the
United States believes that Taiwan independence is the betrayer of
Taiwan's interests, and that the DPP which advocates Taiwan
independence is also the betrayer of Taiwan's interests. ...
"The three officials speaking on behalf of the U.S. government have
more than once emphasized 'the American people's friendship and
commitment for the 'Taiwan people.' The three officials remarked
repeatedly that the 'Taiwan interests' referred to by the United
States are the real 'Taiwan interests,' while in the meantime they
implied that Chen is actually the betrayer of the 'Taiwan
interests.' It is akin to telling the Taiwan people that at this
critical moment, they should make a judgment and choice between the
United States and Chen, in terms of which one has correctly
interpreted and maintained the Taiwan interests. ..."
G) "A Blow to the DPP's Referendum Campaign"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (9/13):
"... The U.S. has been the staunchest ally of Taiwan in the island's
attempt to defend itself from a possible attack from the other side
of the Taiwan Strait. The Chen government has kept condemning the
mainland for deploying hundreds of missiles along the southeast
coast of China, targeting Taiwan. In fact, if the DPP were less
eager to make Taiwan an independent state, there would not be so
many missiles on the mainland coast across from the island. Whether
the DPP will win the upcoming presidential election is anyone's
guess, but the party has damaged relations between Taiwan and the