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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Taiwan's Un Bid, Arms Procurements

VZCZCXYZ0003
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #2186/01 2691009
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261009Z SEP 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6917
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7291
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8557

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 002186

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 BID, ARMS PROCUREMENTS


1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage September 25-26 on the aftermath of a Taipei District
Court's decision Monday to detain an agent and a former agent of the
Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau on suspicion of spying for
China; on the 2008 presidential election; on the DPP's controversial
"normal country resolution;" and on the Moon Festival Tuesday.

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an editorial in the
pro-unification "United Daily News" urged the DPP to clarify to the
Taiwan public the differences between the Republic of China and the
Taiwan nation. An editorial in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taiwan News," on the other hand, urged Washington
not to delay its approval of the F-16 C/D fighter jets deal to
Taiwan and thus send a wrong message to China. An editorial in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" also discussed
Taiwan's arms procurements by calling for balance between the
island's defensive and countervailing forces. End summary.

3. Taiwan's UN Bid

"No More Torturing: Clarify [the Differences] between the Republic
of China and the Taiwan Nation Now!"

The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (9/26):

"... The DPP plays the very role of an executioner in such political
torturing and dismemberment scenes. Take the 'UN referendum' as an
example: Chen Shui-bian has been pushing for 'Taiwan's UN bid' on
the one hand and 'name change, writing of a new constitution, and
Taiwan independence' for the island on the other. What he has been
doing was apparently a move toward Taiwan independence. But then he
should have stated it very clearly that the 'UN referendum' is a
'referendum on Taiwan independence.' To everyone's surprise, when
Washington said the UN referendum is 'a step toward a declaration of
Taiwan independence and an alteration of the status quo,' Chen
retracted by claiming deceptively that the 'UN referendum,' which is
not aimed at changing the island's national name, does not violate
the 'Four Nos' pledge. Likewise, take the [DPP's] 'normal country
resolution' as an example: The resolution is clearly a declaration
of Taiwan independence. But the DPP stopped in the middle of its
pushing for the resolution and changed its tone [in the resolution]
by saying that [it hopes Taiwan will] 'complete its name change and
the writing of a new constitution as early as possible.' Aren't
such convulsions in Taiwan independence...a kind of political
torture for the 23 million people on Taiwan?

"The DPP's position specified in its 'Resolution on Taiwan's Future'
was that 'Taiwan is an independent sovereign state whose name is the
Republic of China.' ... But the 'normal country resolution,' be it
the original version that advocated 'changing [Taiwan's] national
name and writing a new constitution' or the revised one that said
[it hopes Taiwan will] 'complete its name change and the writing of
a new constitution as early as possible,' calls for 'de jure Taiwan
independence' and has thus denied 'the Republic of China.' As it
stands now, how can the DPP not try to explain clearly to the public
[the differences] between the Republic of China and the Taiwan
nation? ..."

4. Arms Procurements

A) "U.S. Must Not Send Wrong Message"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (9/25):

"For several years, the United States government has pointed to the
failure of the Legislative Yuan to approve budget authority for the
government to purchase three advanced defense weapon systems as a
sign that Taiwan may be unwilling to take responsibility for
building its own self-defense capabilities. Fortunately, after
three years of legislative boycott and delays by the opposition
Kuomintang-led majority, the Legislative Yuan finally in June
approved funds for the purchase of 12 P-3C 'Orion' fixed-wing
anti-submarine aircraft, agreed to an upgrade of existing Patriot II
anti-missile missile systems and approved further study on the
proposed purchase of eight diesel-electric submarines. ...

"Moreover, the Legislature also in June gave pre-approval to a
budget proposal by the Ministry of National defense for NT$16
billion in funds toward the purchase of 66 upgraded F-16 C/D Block
52 'Fighting Falcon' multipurpose jet fighters, which Taiwan also
urgently needs to restore the balance with a rapidly upgrading PRC
air force, which is now equipped with powerful SU-27 'Flanker' jet
fighters and retire the last of our obsolete F-5 fighters. ...
While media reports indicate that the U.S. State Department is
worried that the sale of F-16 C/D fighters will 'send a wrong
message' to Taiwan that Washington tacitly supports the U.N.
referendum or Taiwan's entry into the U.N., we believe it is more

likely that Washington policy makers are more anxious about how
Beijing might spin U.S. agreement to the sale. ...

"While important, the differences on the referendum issue involve
short-term political issues, but a delay in approval of a major
defensive arms procurements, including the F-16 C/Ds, has the
potential to harm the substantive interests of both Taiwan and the
United States and also affect the security of other regional
democracies. ... In a word, the procurement of the F-16 C/D
fighters is a necessary defense against the PRC's threat to Taiwan
and is also vital to the maintenance of the line of defense in the
Western Pacific for the U.S. and Japan. The timing of the
procurement is crucial, not because of any nonexistent connection
with the DPP's proposed referendum but because securing its approval
from the legislative branch was by no means a simple matter and a
future authorization can definitely not be taken for granted.

"As Washington should realize, securing approval for the P-3C Orions
and the F-16 C/D Falcons has followed three years of boycotts by the
KMT. There is no way to guarantee what the new Legislature to be
elected in January will do. Failure to take advantage of the
current window of authorization will indeed send messages to both
the Taiwan and the PRC governments, but not necessary the message
senior leaders in Washington intend.
Such a delay will show that Washington places Beijing's 'feelings'
and verbal threats above Taiwan's long-term security and could
gravely undermine the credibility of the U.S.' own often-repeated
demand that Taiwan take action to 'show' our will to maintain a
self-defense capability.

"The prospect of a yawning imbalance in air power in the Taiwan
Strait will also favor the projection of PRC military power and
influence in East and Southeast Asia and into the Western Pacific
and give a major political boost to PRC hardliners. Further U.S.
appeasement of Beijing at the expense of a democratic ally could
also send a message to regional neighbors, from South Korea to Japan
and Southeast Asia, that they have little choice but to accommodate
the PRC's hegemonic behavior given the questionable will of
Washington's own resolve. Washington's unprincipled vocal
opposition to Taiwan's internal democratic process regarding the
United Nations issue has already sent a wrong message to our
citizens and to the region. A linkage of the U.N. referendum issue
with the question of procurement of F-16 C/Ds or other defensive
systems will compound the error with a message that would further
isolate Taiwan, encourage Beijing's regional ambitions and undermine
the credibility and interests of the United States itself."

B) "Taiwan's Military Juggling Act"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (9/25):

"No matter how one looks at it, diplomacy -- the course Taipei has
chosen to adopt, despite the arduousness and slowness of it -- is
the most reasonable option to advance state interests. Sad to say,
however, regardless of whether one is in favor of militarization of
the Taiwan Strait or against it, Taiwan must, in the face of
potential aggression by China, stand on guard. But as it builds its
defenses, the country must juggle defensive and countervailing
measures. ... However pessimistic this may sound, people who argue
that Taiwan should only purchase and develop defensive weapons have,
at best, a tenuous grasp of how military decisions are made.

"Hence, the sporadic rumors that Taiwan is developing missiles
capable of reaching major Chinese cities or, more recently, the ado
over the possibility that Taiwan would deploy surface-to-surface
missiles on Kinmen and Matsu. Whether such a deployment will become
reality or not (and the maintenance of a little secrecy on the
matter wouldn't necessarily hurt), the very existence of a
possibility is enough to play into Beijing's calculations should the
moment come when it feels compelled to launch an attack against
Taiwan. But Taipei's juggling act involves a third ball, one that
it must keep airborne with great caution. A state's ultimate defense
lies not in the quantifiable -- e.g. the number of aircraft, subs
and missile defense systems it owns -- but rather in its capacity to
avert armed conflict in the first place. So, putting diplomacy aside
and focusing on the purely military, Taiwan's military build-up must
be accompanied by the necessary mechanisms mitigating the risk that
war will come not out of will, but through error. ...

"We can all be grateful that Taiwan isn't a warlike country and that
in the Strait, only one half of the equation has adopted an
aggressive stance. The risk to us all would be all the greater if
both were rattling their sabers, or much more threatening if Taipei
had chosen to go down the nuclear path. In the end, it all boils
down to keeping everything in balance: Building forces while
managing to avoid an arms race that, by virtue of its
disproportionate opponent, Taiwan cannot hope to win. It means
reducing the risks of error by establishing better communication and

greater transparency with the opponent without, on the other hand,
revealing one's every position. All that being said, the value of
deploying missiles on Kinmen and Matsu, among other options, is open
to debate, as is the veil of mystery that surrounds that
possibility. But no matter what it does, every offensive capability
Taiwan acquires comes with a responsibility to ensure that it
doesn't create more danger than it prevents. ..."

YOUNG

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