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


DE RUEHIN #2585/01 3440919
R 100919Z DEC 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage December 8-10 on the removal of the old inscription and the
debut of the new inscription -- "Liberty Square" -- on the main arch
of the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (formerly known as the Chiang
Kai-shek Memorial Hall) over the weekend; on Taiwan's UN referendum;
and on the Golden Horse Awards ceremony Saturday. Almost all papers
reported on Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Christensen's
talk with the Taiwan media last Thursday, in which he clearly stated
U.S. opposition to the DPP's proposed UN referendum. The
pro-independence "Liberty Times," however, ran a banner headline on
page two that said "Bian Speaks back at the United States: UN
Referendum Will Surely Be Passed."

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, the "Free Talks" column
in the "Liberty Times" compared Venezuela's referendum and Taiwan's
UN referendum and slammed the United States for trampling down on
other countries' democratic referenda. A separate "Liberty Times"
commentary said the containment of both the United States and China
has all the more highlighted the values of the UN referendum. A
commentary in the pro-unification "United Daily News," on the other
hand, said Washington is "fed up" with the relevant statements given
by the Bian administration regarding the UN referendum. The article
said Washington is cross-Strait policy is clear; namely it wants
both sides of the Taiwan Strait to resume dialogue. An editorial in
the pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" commented on
Christensen's talk last Thursday and said "Attempts by Washington to
escape this reality by pressuring Taiwan voters will only backfire."
End summary.

A) "Both Are Referenda"

The "Free Talks" column in the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
[circulation: 720,000] wrote (12/8):

"Two countries [i.e. Venezuela and Taiwan] either held or is to hold
a referendum, but the U.S. State Department showed different looks
and attitudes [toward the referenda]. Is it possible that the
United States has a 'double standard' toward democracy and freedom,
the 'universal values' that it safeguards wholeheartedly? Or is
this simply a 'false image' [of the United States], that it has been
hypocritical, while only its vital interests are what really
matters? U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Asian and
Pacific Affairs Thomas Christensen was 'pointing fingers at' [i.e.
criticizing] Taiwan's UN referendum again; he said something like
the referendum is 'dangerous, provocative -- remarks that were
nearly tantamount to 'threatening' the Taiwan government and its
people. Regardless of whether the United States is attempting to
interfere with Taiwan's internal affairs, what is more questionable
is how could a democratic great power like the United States trample
on other countries' democratic referenda like this. ...

"When compared with the 'bad referendum' held by Venezuela, Taiwan's
UN referendum is of course a 'good referendum' that is fully
consistent with the principles of democracy. Venezuela's 'bad
referendum' generated 'good results,' and Washington said it
welcomes such results. But Washington has been using stern remarks
to suppress and smother Taiwan's 'good referendum,' as if it wants
to beat it down to hell; it is attempting to beat Taiwan's 'good
referendum' into bearing 'bad results,' to make it fail to pass.
The U.S. approach in reversing good and bad and confusing right and
wrong was evidently a move to 'eat the persimmon when it's soft'
[i.e. to take advantage of a person when he is weak]. The question
is: Is Taiwan a soft persimmon that allows others to squeeze and

B) "Containment by both the United States and China Have All the
More Highlighted the Value of UN Referendum"

Deputy Editor-in-Chief Tsou Jiing-wen noted in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000] (12/8):

"[U.S. Deputy Secretary of State] Thomas Christensen's talk [last
Friday] was definitely not the end. Before the proposed UN bid
referendum being held next year, the United States is likely to
raise its intensity and keep 'having dialogue' with the Taiwan
people. Its purpose is quite simple. In order to be left alone and
not to hear Hu Jintao's nagging like an old grandma, it is the best
[for Taiwan] to call off the referendum; if the referendum can not
be withdrawn, it is the second best that the referendum can not pass
the threshold, so that Hu can have a graceful exit from the
predicament. ...

"Why is it so? Just take a look at Christensen's talk and it is
plain and clear enough. He said that the UN referendum will not
help Taiwan's status. Even if the referendum is passed, the United
States will not change its one-China policy and Taiwan is still not
able to join the UN. While describing the referendum as useless,
Christensen was also saying that it is dangerous and provocative and
that it may be a referendum on unification or independence. The

rhetoric itself is so contradictory that even Christensen is perhaps
hardly aware how to clarify such a useless but dangerous logic. ...

"It is actually not difficult to dig out the real answer behind the
mystery; that is, the proposed UN referendum is actually useful.
China is afraid of the referendum that can express the public
opinion. Once such a democratic mechanism becomes a normal
practice, any issue can be put to refer to all the people in Taiwan.
In this vein, all the fairy tales made by China, such as Taiwan is
part of China and that the 1.3 billion people in China and 23
million people in Taiwan will jointly make decisions, are going to
fall apart. The situation is equivalent to the chain reaction set
off after Taiwan people elected its president for the first time in
1996. ..."

C) "The United States Is Fed up"

Journalist Sun Yang-ming wrote in the "United Notes" column in the
pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000] (12/9):

"The United States' cross-Strait policy has become very clear
lately. According to the wording of Washington, the United States
has been 'fed up' with the relevant stories or statements made by
the Bian administration. Even though AIT Director Stephen Young has
been very supportive of Bian, he still said eventually that the
United States hopes to see both sides of the Taiwan Strait resume
dialogue in May, 2008. Former AIT Chairman Richard Bush even said
in public that in the wake of Taiwan's presidential election next
year, Washington and Taipei will have approximately one year of
'golden time' to mend the trust between the two sides. Judged from
this statement, Washington's future cross-Strait policy is to [push
for] 'cross-Strait dialogue,' and further, [to push for]
'cross-Strait talks.' Even though the Bush administration has yet
to have completely clear steps for its cross-Strait policy, its
direction is unambiguous. ..."

D) "Christensen Shows U.S. Tunnel Vision"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (12/10):

"United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific
Affairs Thomas Christensen on Friday issued an apparent ultimatum to
President Chen Shui-bian by claiming that the referendum initiated
by the Democratic Progressive Party on entering the United Nations
using the name of 'Taiwan' was designed to 'unilaterally change the
status quo' in the Taiwan Strait. ... Christensen's latest
statement formed part of a series of moves by the right-wing
Republican Bush administration to downplay the recent tension
sparked by Beijing's high-profile refusal to allow the U.S. Kitty
Hawk aircraft carrier to stop in Hong Kong and the decision by the
White House to ask the carrier to sail to Japan through the Taiwan
Strait. Bush may also have decided to intensify pressure on
President Chen and his DPP government to ease Beijing's
dissatisfaction with Washington over the latter's handling of the
Taiwan referendum issue.

"After all, in the wake of the submission of 2.72 million signatures
to the Central Election Commission by the DPP-supported Alliance for
a Referendum for Taiwan's Entry into the United Nations, there is a
good chance that the DPP will be able to energize voters to secure
strong turnout, exceeding the threshold of 50 percent of eligible
voters and secure passage of the initiative on March 22. In this
regard, we are not surprised that American Institute in Taiwan
Taipei Office Director Steven Young, Washington's unofficial
ambassador, stated last week that the U.S. hopes for better
cross-strait relations after the March 22 presidential elections, a
comment that implied that Washington has closed the door on the Chen

"The situation is actually quite similar to the external pressures
and constraints that existed in our previous three presidential
elections, with the notable difference that the threats in the past
three polls were verbal threats and military intimidations from an
expansionist and authoritarian PRC regime and this time the pressure
is from the U.S., the self-styled paragon of democracy. However,
just as we opposed People's Republic of China intimidation to block
Taiwan's progress toward democracy, we must express our opposition
to the claim by Christensen that the U.N. referendum was specially
designed to 'unilaterally change the status quo' and his implication
that Taiwan should be treated as a kind of pariah state for being
too democratic. ...

"We urge U.S. officials to treat both sides of Taiwan Strait on an
equal footing. If the holding of a referendum makes Taiwan the
party that is 'unilaterally changing the status quo,' we wonder how
Washington sees the PRC's increasing deployment of missiles and
other offensive forces targeted on Taiwan. As we have previously

noted, Washington seems to have turned a blind eye to Beijing's
intensifying diplomatic suppression of Taiwan's international space
and even voted in favor of the denigration of Taiwan's status in the
Paris-based World Animal Health Organization (OIE). We cannot but
wonder whether Christensen truly expects the Taiwan people to ignore
these diplomatic humiliations and Beijing's concrete 'unilateral'
changes in the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. We must also echo
President Chen's timely reminder that Young's expectations will
remain wishful thinking if Beijing continues to demand that Taipei
must accept its 'one-China principle' before negotiations can
resume. Young seems to have forgotten that Beijing persistently
ignored a series of 'olive branches' offered by Chen in his first
term. ...

"The ball is in Beijing's court and it is highly unlikely that the
PRC regime will treat Taiwan's new president with "moderation" or
make any adjustments in its 'one-China principle.' These are the
most inconvenient truths that the U.S. government and Taiwan's two
presidential candidates need to face. Attempts by Washington to
escape this reality by pressuring Taiwan voters will only


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