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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Taiwan's Un Referendum

VZCZCXYZ0180
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #2150/01 2631007
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 201007Z SEP 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6862
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7279
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8535

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 002150

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: TAIWAN'S UN REFERENDUM

1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage September 20 on the 62nd session of the UN General
Assembly, in which Taiwan's UN bid was blocked for the 15th
consecutive year Wednesday; on the Federal Reserve's announcement
Tuesday to cut its benchmark interest rate; and on the investigation
into an American citizen who was arrested in Kaohsiung Monday on
suspicion of murdering a Taiwan woman. The centrist, KMT-leaning
"China Times" ran an exclusive news story on page four with the
headline "Ma: It Is Worth Further Study as to [Whether Taiwan Needs
to Hold] the [UN] Referendum."

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a commentary in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" said Beijing has sensed the danger of
turning the Taiwan issue into an international matter and is thus
trying to box it in the frame of China's internal affairs. A news
analysis in the pro-independence "Liberty Times" said Taiwan will be
a winner as long as it can internationalize the UN referendum issue
and create the greatest marginal benefits out of it. An editorial
in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" said the UN
referendum can show the world first-hand "how China bullies those
who dare to stand up for themselves, and how easily the UN will fall
into step when required." A "Taipei Times" op-ed, however,
suggested that the Taiwan people decide on their priorities and
choose a "wiser" UN referendum question that can fully enable Taiwan
to express their will and in the meantime represent their attempt to
maintain the "status quo." End summary.

A) "The Lemon That Has Been Squeezed into Lemon Juice"

Columnist Antonio Chiang noted in his column in the mass-circulation
"Apple Daily" [circulation: 530,000] (9/20):

"... Beijing used to accuse Chen Shui-bian of destroying
cross-Strait relations and endangering peace and stability in the
Asia-Pacific region. But this time, it only mentioned the situation
across the Taiwan Strait and did not say a word about the
Asia-Pacific area. Such subtle change indicated that Beijing has
sensed the danger of turning the Taiwan issue into an international
matter and is thus trying to box it in the frame of China's internal
affairs. But, just like the fact that lemons cannot be changed back
into lemons again once they have been squeezed into lemon juice, the
Taiwan issue cannot be changed back into a domestic issue once it
has been internationalized. ...

"The Taiwan issue is closely related to Asia-Pacific security, and
this is neither rhetoric nor publicity but a strategic security
issue. The Taiwan issue has repercussions for complicated
international politics, and it is not something that can be resolved
unilaterally by governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The
Beijing authorities must have been alert and perceptive of this
point; that is why they have been acting so anxiously lately."

B) "China [Seeking to] Make [Taiwan's UN Referendum] Bigger; the
Taiwan Issue Has [Thus] Become Internationalized"

Deputy Editor-in-Chief Tsou Jiing-wen noted in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000] (9/18):

"... 'The bigger [Taiwan's UN referendum] gets, the better [it is
for Taiwan]' has been the [Taiwan] government's strategic objective
this year when it sought, for the first time, to enter the UN under
the name Taiwan, and both internal and external factors have
contributed to it. On the international level, [Taiwan] can shape
public opinion, seek [other countries'] sympathy [for its UN bid],
and thus enlarge the island's visibility. Domestically, the [UN
bid] is essential in building Taiwan-centric awareness and it can
help boost campaigning.

"Given the fact that China is a permanent member of the UN Security
Council, everyone knows what the result will be of [Taiwan's UN bid
at the] UN General Assembly session, which convened on September 18,
regardless of which name Taiwan uses to apply for UN membership.
Since the 'result' is already predictable, what is important for
Taiwan lies in the 'process.' Taiwan will be a winner as long as
its UN bid can create the greatest marginal benefits. As expected,
China's typical reaction to it was like a well-trained dog, which
would rush forward even though what lay ahead of it was a virtual
bone. China has become the best supporting actor in the public
opinion war in Taiwan this time.

"One can either play up or play down the referendum matter no matter
whether it is for joining or re-joining the UN. But the United
States has accepted China's definition and made a federal case of it
by calling it an 'important step' toward Taiwan independence. The
referendum, as a result, was immediately turned into a hot issue and
upgraded from the level of an electoral tactic for domestic
consumption into a 'sacred war' for [Taiwan's] national dignity and
international identification. The U.S. misjudgment has made it more
difficult for it to intervene afterwards, but the root of the

problem still lies in China. ... There are still six months
remaining in the run-up to the presidential election next March.
Taiwan must watch every step it takes in this long-term battle. But
given the way Washington and Beijing have started, it is a foregone
conclusion that Taiwan's UN bid can not possibly be played down [at
this point]."

C) "To Be Heard Is Victory Enough"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (9/20):

"... After 13 years of failure, this is the first time the
government has applied for UN membership under the name 'Taiwan,' a
departure from the practice of using the formal title 'Republic of
China.' Another bout of disappointment notwithstanding, Taiwan is
to some degree better off this year in its pursuit of a UN seat. ...
The more Taiwan speaks to the international community, the better it
can demonstrate that it and China are separate countries. And
Chinese officials are welcome to deliver incensed responses. The
more ridiculous and strident their comments, the more credibility
Taiwan secures and the more unifying the effect on all Taiwanese.
...

"Even so, it appears China has had success in driving a wedge
between Taiwan and the US by pressuring the latter to oppose the
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government's proposed UN
referendum. This opposition came in the shape of a certain US
official dismissing Taiwan's statehood. Some breakthrough, until
one considers that the Chinese face enormous problems selling this
drivel to the Taiwanese man and woman on the street. Until that
time, we can expect the Chinese Foreign Ministry to take comfort
from the US State Department's attempts to mute the forces of
liberty in Taiwan. ... Let the world see how democratic Taiwan is,
and how it differs from an autocratic China. Let the world see
first-hand how China bullies those who dare to stand up for
themselves -- and how easily the UN will fall into step when
required."

D) "Proposing a Wiser UN Referendum"

Cho Hui-wan, an associate professor and chair of the Graduate
Institute of International Politics at National Chung Hsing
University, opined in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei
Times" [circulation: 30,000] (9/19):

"... The majority of countries have been forced to acknowledge that
there is only 'one China,' but still continue to have substantial
relations with de facto independent Taiwan. This inconsistency
between the legal and the actual has existed for several decades.
Although the U.S. has used harsh words against Taiwan, it has not,
however, accepted China's position that Taiwan is a part of the
People's Republic of China. Taiwanese should give serious thought
as to whether in the foreseeable future there is the possibility of
a breakthrough to Taiwan's advantage in this inconsistent state of
affairs. If not, wouldn't it be better for Taiwanese, who are
already sovereign, to bear with this inconsistency for awhile,
rather than forcing the international community to break open this
ambiguity and choose between China and Taiwan? ...

"It is unfortunate for Taiwan that it is excluded from international
organizations, but it is fortunate for its citizens that Taiwan is a
de facto independent country that can control its own fate. It
wouldn't be wise for Taiwan to lose what it has in pursuit of what
it doesn't, would it? But what can be done now that the process of
holding a referendum is already started, and neither party will
relent? If people can tell the difference between advantages and
disadvantages, what can be won and what can be lost, the referendum
should be changed to the question: 'Do you agree that the UN should
not exclude Taiwan?' Such a question would fully enable Taiwanese to
express their will and it would clearly not represent an attempt to
change the 'status quo.'"

YOUNG

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