Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-Taiwan Relations
DE RUEHIN #2619/01 3522318
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 182318Z DEC 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7618
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7551
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8825
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 002619
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: U.S.-TAIWAN RELATIONS
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language and English-language
dailies gave significant reporting and editorial coverage December
15-18 to the exposure of the contents of a conversation between AIT
Chairman Raymond Burghardt and KMT vice presidential candidate
Vincent Siew on December 8. The pro-unification "United Daily News"
front-paged a banner headline on December 15 that said "Burghardt
and Siew Express Worries in a Secret Meeting That Bian [Will] Use
Dirty Tricks to Disrupt the Elections."
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an analysis in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" discussed the exposed memorandum of
conversation between Burghardt and Siew and slammed the KMT for
conspiring with the United States to sell out Taiwan. An editorial
in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" criticized
the lack of parity in Washington's dealings with the KMT. Both an
editorial and a commentary in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
said the exposed secret document will do harm to the KMT camp. A
separate "Apple Daily" op-ed said Washington is more worried about
martial law in Taiwan than the UN referendum. An editorial in the
centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" discussed the United States'
mistrust of President Chen Shui-bian, while a "United Daily News"
editorial said the UN referendum will give Chen a leverage to put
Taiwan's new presidential and its political situation on a short
leash. An editorial in the conservative, pro-unification,
English-language "China Post" said Burghardt's trip "marked a
watershed in Washington's dealing with Chen and the ruling DPP."
A) "Betraying Taiwan's Voters and Opening its [KMT] Heart with the
Deputy Editor-in-Chief Tsou Jiing-wen noted in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000] (12/116):
"The Ma Ying-jeou [KMT presidential candidate] camp has clarified
[KMT vice presidential candidate Vincent]Siew's way of speaking
regarding the 'two-step' voting format, which is a typical style of
'Teflon pot,' meaning 'nothing to do with me.' The candidate and
his running mate are a unit. If Ma wants to set aside Siew['s
remarks in the memocon], he has to reprimand Vincent Siew [and ask
Siew] to deny that [Siew] had a tacit understanding with the United
States on his own account. But the circumstances are the opposite
of this. Siew confirmed that he has taken unverified rumors, the
imaginary so-called 'dirty tricks,' to act like a spoiled brat and
complain to the United States. Do these talks and behavior mean
that this [potential KMT government] will be a puppet regime? Does
Taiwan need such an authority that listens to orders and handles
matters for others [such as the United States]? ...
"The referendum of returning to the UN proposed by the KMT has been
sent to the Central Election Committee. Up until now, neither the
party's central committee nor its candidates has explained to the
general public why the referendum was proposed, and they arguments
to encourage people to vote and show their support. Instead, [the
KMT] puts more emphasis on its insistence on the 'two-step' voting
system than on explaining the content of its referendum [to return
to the UN]. This is really a very weird phenomenon. Now, in order
to block the UN referendum, the truth was revealed. This explains
that the referenda on opposing corruption and returning to the UN
are 'all fake' and are typical ways of cheating votes. Does it mean
that whether the referenda pass or not, the proposing party does not
care at all? ...
"Ma and Siew do not explain to several millions of voters who have
worked hard to sign the signatures [to propose the referendum to
join the UN]. Instead, they report to a foreign country's
messenger. Do they [Ma and Siew] put the people in their mind?
They also put the United States, who has intervenes in Taiwan's
internal affairs, and China, who instructs behind the U.S., as their
colonial masters. What if Ma and Siew were elected [as president
and vice president], would it manifest the rumor that they will make
Taiwan the sub-colony co-managed by China and the United States?
[In such a case] [w]ill their roles be inferior to that of the chief
executive? [Ed Note: title of the chief official of Chinese-ruled
Hong Kong] Taiwan had its first president directly elected by
people in 1996. Does it mean [Taiwan] will go backward to the
election of chief executive with which the style is even inferior to
that of an election by agent? ..."
B) "Why Is the US Silent on the KMT?"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (12/15):
"The US cannot be blamed for preferring one presidential ticket over
another -- or one party dominating the legislature and not the
other. But here is a question that US officials can ask themselves:
Is the long-term damage that can be inflicted on Taiwan's national
-- and regional -- stability and core democratic structures and
practices from one-sided intervention worth the short-term political
gain? When Burghardt criticized Chen -- however undiplomatic his
wording -- even Chen supporters could see beyond the reproachful
tone. They could appreciate that Burghardt probably meant well, even
if certain superiors at the State Department and the White House
decidedly do not.
"What these allies might not appreciate is the lack of parity in
Washington's dealings with the KMT. Chen, for all his faults, has
been scapegoated for most of his time as president over the
obstructiveness of not only Beijing apparatchiks but also pro-China
elements in the pan-blue camp. And because most US officials are
serenely ignorant of Taiwanese domestic politics and do not read
Chinese, they do not understand that the balance of KMT efforts in
the legislature has been to grind the Chen administration to a halt
-- even while directly insulting the US -- and to hell with ordinary
people caught up in the circus. ...
"The US has been steadfast in its silence over the KMT's agenda of
discrediting administrative systems. It therefore must be asked if
anyone among serving US officials other than AIT Director Stephen
Young has requisite understanding of these problems.
It would have been gratifying if Burghardt had publicly warned Ma
and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng of the corrosive impact of
denigrating public institutions for partisan gain. Perhaps Burghardt
could have publicly discussed the instability that might follow a
legislative run on the authority of executive agencies -- including
holding entire budgets to ransom over the most trivial acts and
shutting down entire systems of government. Or shutting down
meaningful arms spending. But no. None of this is publicly
accountable. We can only pray that this is not the kind of
governance and leadership that Washington would wish for Taiwan --
or tolerate in the name of expediency."
C) "Exposure of the Secret Document Harms Ma Ying-jeou"
The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 500,000]
"The exposure of the secret document [i.e. the memorandum of
conversation] between [AIT Chairman] Raymond Burghardt and [KMT vice
presidential candidate] Vincent Siew indicated that not only the DPP
but also the KMT knows nothing about how to keep secret. Even if
the exposure were done by hackers, apparently neither of the two
parties had been capable of fighting hackers. What else can we
expect from them? ...
"In addition, Burghardt raised doubts to Siew with regard to Ma
Ying-jeou's attitude toward the [U.S.] arms sales. Burghardt also
reminded Ma that, given Taiwan's insufficient military strength,
talks between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will be akin to
talks of surrender. This is exactly the gray area where Ma has been
equivocating and keeping vague, thus providing people the
opportunity to suspect whether Ma is pro-China. Ma must no longer
dodge the question and must make an honest and clear response to
D) "Caught with One's Pants down"
Columnist Antonio Chiang wrote in his column in the mass-circulation
"Apple Daily" [circulation: 500,000] (12/18):
"... In fact, the United States' understanding of Taiwan's situation
may not necessarily be less comprehensive than that of local
specialists. The Americans' infiltration of Taiwan society is very
thorough, and rarely is there any secret in Taiwan that they don't
know. AIT does a very solid study and investigation of Taiwan, and
it keeps a thorough and detailed record of the words and deeds of
every politician. Normally it will come to no avail when either the
ruling or opposition members try to strive for recognition or lay
the blame on others in front of the Americans. ...
"The [U.S.] arms sales is a major stumbling block for the KMT to
seek the U.S. trust and improve Taipei-Washington ties. Without
sufficient defense capabilities on Taiwan's side, the cross-Strait
talks will become talks of surrender. Ma's close aides and the KMT
strategists are still not vigilant or perceptive about this. It
would be more significant if the exposure of the secret document
[between Burghardt and Siew] could get the KMT's attention. ..."
E) "Burghardt Is Worried that Taiwan Will be in Chaos"
Edward I-hsin Chen, a professor at the Institute of American Studies
at Tamkang University , wrote an article in the op-ed of the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 500,000] (12/15)
"... The warning that the United States gives to Taiwan regarding
martial law is definitely not making unfounded accusations. [AIT
Chairman] Raymond Burghardt and [U.S. Deputy Secretary of State]
Thomas Christensen obviously have noticed that, although Taiwan is
not formally under martial law, the manifestation of it has come
into existence in many aspects. For example, with a search warrant
in hand, the National Security Bureau, prosecutors and police
dramatically raided the Shih-ying publisher and searched
publications; Minister of National Defense Lee Tien-yu said that if
the Legislative Yuan did not ratify martial law imposed by the
president, the military force would still do whatever the president
said and would send the 6th Army Corps to take over the Taipei City;
the Ministry of Education unlawfully and forcibly tore down the
plaque "Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall," which manner was seriously
against the procedural justice. All these examples have made the
U.S. officials in Taiwan feel the withering atmosphere similar to
that of imposing martial law.
"The United States has been highly suspicious at the latest
developments in Taiwan. Not only these politicians and governmental
offices' behavior lacks integrity, but also their unscrupulous
attitudes reveal from their behavior and the ignorance and neglect
regarding the value of democracy. Their performance has been no
different from that of a dictatorial country. Obviously from the
perspective of Washington D.C., Taiwan imposing martial law will be
a worse circumstance than that of the UN referendum."
F) "How Come That Dirty Campaigning Tricks Are Still Lingering?"
The centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 400,000]
"... It is a well-known fact that the DPP is very skilled at
maneuvering and manipulating campaigns, and the one who is
outstanding talented in doing so is Bian. Washington's strong
doubts about Chen Shui-bian do not start from today; neither were
they exposed after the 'secret meeting between Burghardt and Siew.'
Similar messages have been constantly passed on to Taiwan from the
American people via direct or indirect channels since six month ago
until Burghardt came to Taiwan personally and called on various
ruling and opposition leaders one month prior to the legislative
elections. What on earth was he here for? Burghardt is not someone
who is 'unaware of Taiwan affairs;' as a major character during the
1996 cross-Strait tension, the messages Burghardt brought with him
and the issues he expressed concerns about have all represented
"During his departure press briefing, Burghardt said reservedly but
directly that during his meeting with Chen, Chen had repeatedly
reiterated his pledges. One of the pledges that the United States
attaches great importance to is that Chen guaranteed that the
leadership can be transferred peacefully! ...
"Given a government which is composed mainly of people studying in
law but which can violate and toy with laws so easily, is there any
thing else that can restrain or check and balance it? Is there
anything that a government which no one or nothing can restrain or
check cannot do? Does Chen have any dirty campaigning tricks after
all? Chen is the one who knows the answer best. The Taiwan people
had better open their eyes and watch clearly how many dirty tricks
G) "Give the Pro-Green Voters a Reason to Oppose the UN Referendum"
The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
"... Burghardt went right to the heart of the matter by pointing out
frankly that the 'UN referendum' is 'one that Chen Shui-bian will
use to put the new president and the political situation following
the presidential election on a short leash.' Chen said 'nothing
will really happen in the wake of the UN referendum.' Surely
nothing will happen if what he referred to is that the island will
become the 'Taiwan country' or that it can enter the UN following
the UN referendum. But the passage of the UN referendum will
provide Chen with a topic and a leverage to put the new president
and Taiwan's political situation on a short leash. On the contrary,
should the 'UN referendum' fail to pass, it will be akin to the
Green camp casting a 'non-confidence' vote on Chen, so that he will
no longer be able to put the DPP on a short leash. Who said that
'nothing will happen in the wake of the UN referendum?' ..."
H) "Prescience or Inordinate Fear?"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (12/15):
"It appears that the United States, Taiwan's only ally and
supporter, is worried. Raymond Berghardt [sic], chairman of the
American Institute in Taiwan, told the local press on Tuesday that
his meeting with President Chen Shui-bian broached a number of
issues, including Washington's concern about the 'peaceful transfer
of power' after the upcoming election. ... The question is
certainly an affront to President Chen, who wraps himself in
democracy. The fact that the AIT chairman briefed the local media on
his meeting with Chen is a clear sign that Washington is unhappy
about what Chen has been doing in his persistent push for Taiwan
independence, in violation of his pledges to Washington and the
international community. ...
"While Mr. Berghardt [sic] failed in his mission to dissuade Chen
from holding the referendum, his trip to Taiwan marked a watershed
in Washington's dealing with Chen and the ruling Democratic
Progressive Party. President Chen may have become a hero for radical
separatists for having the guts ('LP' should be a better word) to
say 'No' to Washington, but he has lost credibility and
trustworthiness with his staunchest ally. The fact that Mr.
Berghardt [sic] did raise the issue of 'peaceful transfer of power'
shows Washington's suspicion of Chen and its lack of trust in him.
The lame duck president may not care about it at all, but the
American diplomat's concern about the election should not be
dismissed by Taiwan's people.
Mr. Berghardt [sic] is by no means an alarmist. He knows Taiwan and
knows what Chen and his party are capable of doing. Have you seen
what the Central Election Commission is doing these days? They are
trying to amend a 'postponement clause' to set conditions that would
justify the postponement of elections, such as natural disasters or
'force majeure.' What they are up to? It seemed that Berghardt's
worry is neither excessive nor inordinate. We should thank Mr.
Berghardt for his prescient warning, just as Frank Hsieh, the DPP's
presidential candidate, thanked the American friend for giving
'warmth' to him by urging him to be 'his own man,' not to be led by
the nose by a demagogue."