Cablegate: Media Reaction: The U.S. And Taiwan's Un Referendum
DE RUEHIN #2117/01 2570934
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 140934Z SEP 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6810
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7261
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8516
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 002117
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: As U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East
Asian and Pacific Affairs Thomas Christensen's speech on Taiwan's UN
referendum Monday remained in the spotlight of the Taiwan media,
news coverage on September 13 also focused on President Chen
Shui-bian's interview with the "Wall Street Journal" Wednesday and
his video conference with the European Union Parliament Thursday; on
the Pentagon's announcement to sell anti-submarine aircraft and
missiles to Taiwan; and on next year's legislators' and presidential
elections. The pro-unification "United Daily News" front-paged a
banner headline that read "Taiwan-U.S. High-level Dialogue Has Been
Called off." The centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" also ran a
banner headline on page four that said "[Christensen's] Harsh
Criticism against [Taiwan's UN Bid] Is Approved by the White House
and [U.S. Vice President Dick] Cheney." The pro-independence
"Liberty Times," Taiwan's biggest circulation daily, however, ran a
banner headline on page two that said "Bian: Nothing Will Come out
of the Referendum."
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a "Liberty Times"
editorial said the U.S. government's public criticism against
Taiwan's UN referendum lately has, to a certain extent, sparked
anti-U.S. sentiment in Taiwan. The article also called on the
United States to spend time listening to the voices of the Taiwanese
people. DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun also said in a "Liberty Times"
op-ed that Washington has twisted the meaning of Taiwan's UN
referendum and failed to understand the Taiwan people's feelings.
Columnist Antonio Chiang said in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
that Christensen's straightforward comment on Taiwan's political
situation has obviously exceeded his capacity as a foreign service
officer, but very few people in Taiwan criticized him for having
intervened in Taiwan's internal affairs. A "China Times" editorial,
on the other hand, called on Taiwan to stop dancing to the tune set
by politicians and be the masters of their own destiny. End
A) "Why Doesn't the United States Listen More to the Voices from the
Taiwan People's Hearts?"
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000]
"The Pentagon announced September 13 a decision to sell Taiwan
weapons totaling US$2.2 billion. But at the Taiwan-U.S. Defense
Industry Conference just a few days ago, U.S. Deputy Assistant
Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Thomas
Christensen criticized harshly our country's UN referendum. ...
Judging from the fact that [Washington] sells weapons to Taiwan but
does not support Taiwan's UN bid,' it is not difficult to determine
that the U.S. government's cross-Strait policy is aimed at
maintaining a balanced situation, in an attempt to prevent China
from invading and annexing Taiwan and to maintain U.S. interests.
But such a slanted policy that only emphasizes the unilateral
interests of the United States is inexplicable for the Taiwanese
people. Moreover, the U.S. government's public criticism against
the UN referendum recently has, to a certain extent, sparked
anti-U.S. sentiment in Taiwan. ...
"For Taiwan's part, its efforts to strengthen its defense
capabilities are surely designated to resist China's invasion
against Taiwan. But why does Taiwan need to safeguard itself
against China's invasion? We want to tell our American friends
right now that the answer is to maintain the independent status of
Taiwan's sovereignty. Taiwanese people identify with Taiwan as
their country, so they will not tolerate any schemes by China to
unify Taiwan, including the use of force. ...
"Honestly speaking, we are very worried that the U.S. government's
two-pronged approach will create an unfavorable impression in the
hearts of the Taiwanese people. Over the past few years, those who
boycotted the U.S. arms procurements were mainly those who advocated
ultimate unification with China. But if the U.S. government
repeatedly announces that Taiwan is not a country and that it does
not support Taiwan's UN bid, many Taiwanese people may likely begin
to question whether the United States also seeks to suppress
Taiwan's sovereign status like China has been doing. Should this be
the case, why does Taiwan need to spend money buying weapons? ...
In the face of what the U.S. government has been doing lately, some
Taiwanese people might also begin to question whether Washington is
applying a double standard on democracy, or they might even question
the essence of democratic values. Should such doubts increase, it
will obviously be unfavorable for the United States' strategy to
promote democracy all over the world.
"The U.S. government expects Taiwan to be strong and moderate; isn't
this also the expectation of the Taiwanese people? ... To make the
island strong and moderate in the face of Taiwan's increasingly
perilous environment, the Taiwanese people need to promote more
proactively the island's status as an independent sovereignty. The
close and friendly relationship between Taiwan and the United States
relies on mutual understanding. The U.S. government has more than
once stated its cross-Strait policy to the Taiwan people. Shouldn't
it also listen more to the voices from the hearts of the Taiwanese?"
B) "To Safeguard Referenda and Democracy to the End"
DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun opined in the pro-independence "Liberty
Times" [circulation: 720,000] (9/14):
"U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific
Affairs Thomas Christensen expressed opposition to Taiwan's UN
referendum on the grounds that it will alter the status quo. But in
reality, Christensen's remarks reflected exactly that Washington has
twisted [the meaning] of Taiwan's referendum; that it does not
understand the feelings of the Taiwanese people; and that it is
attempting to shirk its responsibility for its failed cross-Strait
policy. ... Washington announced that it wants to maintain the
status quo across the Taiwan Strait as it defines it. But what
Taiwan has seen is the United States tacitly agreeing that China can
expand its definition of Taiwan independence and draw a red line on
Taiwan's democratic development. I cannot help but wonder where the
accusation of the island changing its national name comes from if
Taiwan is not a country? ..."
C) "Americans' Lecture"
Columnist Antonio Chiang noted in his column in the mass-circulation
"Apple Daily" [circulation: 530,000] (9/14):
"The rank of U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian
and Pacific Affairs Thomas Christensen is equivalent to that of the
director of the Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs of
Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Christensen's straightforward
comment on Taiwan's political situation has obviously exceeded his
capacity as a foreign service officer. But few people in Taiwan
have criticized him for having intervened with [Taiwan's] internal
affairs, and instead, people generally believe that his remarks were
pertinent. The Taiwan society indeed can hardly be regarded as
"Americans have run out of patience for A-Bian, so now the Taiwan
issue has to be dealt with directly by the White House. In fact,
the Americans are aware that the UN referendum is not a big deal;
they just have doubts about the island's UN bid using the name
'Taiwan.' ... A-Bian has emphasized repeatedly that he will not
change the island's national name and nothing will come out of the
referendum. But given his previous record, not even the four
heavyweights in the DPP can guarantee that. ..."
E) "It Would Be Better to Expect [Taiwan's] Voters to Wake up Than
to Expect the Two Parties to Stop [the Progress of] Referenda"
The centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 400,000]
"... But the two major political parties' reckless moves to launch
referenda on joining or re-joining the UN have obviously damaged the
mutual trust between Taiwan and the United States and escalated the
confrontation between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. An even
more serious side effect is that, should the two referenda fail to
be passed, people might interpret it to mean the Taiwanese people
are not enthusiastic about this issue, which will thus harm the
morale of the Taiwanese and the impression of the international
community of Taiwan. ... Thus, this paper does not believe that it
is a wise move that serves our national and the people's interests
to continue pushing for the referenda to join or re-join the UN now.
... But judging from the reality, ... the best way will be for the
Taiwan public to truly realize what is going on now and decide not
to dance to the tune set by the politicians any more, and be the
masters of their own destiny. ..."