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Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-Taiwan Arms Sales

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #1030/01 1960816
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 140816Z JUL 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9496
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8443
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9666

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001030

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: U.S.-TAIWAN ARMS SALES

1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage July 12-14 on the alleged telephone conversation between
U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Taiwan's National
Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi at the end of June; on
eight Taiwan businessmen who went missing in a shipwreck in the
waters off Madagascar; and on President Ma Ying-jeou's planned
August visit to Latin American with transit stops in the United
States. The pro-unification "United Daily News" on July 12 had a
banner headline on page four saying that "the White House Phoned Su
Chi: Several Items of the Arms Sales Are Frozen." Both the
centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" and the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" followed up the news on July 13 and devoted more
than half of a page reporting on the circumstance of the arms sales
between Taiwan and the United States.

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an editorial in the
"Liberty Times" lashed out at the Ma Administration's alleged
inferiority complex toward China and the delay of U.S. arms
procurements. The article said it would be a disaster for Taiwan if
the Ma Administration continues leaning toward China and giving up
its self-defense capabilities. An op-ed in the "China Times"
reasoned that the United States is still leaving the door open for
Taiwan to procure arms. Therefore, Taiwan should implement
state-of-the-art political negotiation skills to make the United
States understand Taiwan's determination to defend itself as well as
maintain long-term amicable relations with the United States. End
summary.

A) "With an Inferior Mentality Which Regards China as Its Savior,
How Is [Taiwan] Able to Talk about Its National Defense?"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 700,000]
editorialized (7/14):

"...It goes without saying that the truth regarding the United
States' decision to shelve its arms sales to Taiwan must be probed
clearly and the question regarding who should be held responsible
for such a decision must be investigated and clarified. But all
these remain minor details. What one really needs to look into is:
What are the national identity, international strategy and foreign
policy direction of the new administration which assumed office [in
May]? The key to this question hinges on the new administration's
cross-Strait policy direction. In other words, since President Ma
assumed office, the introduction of China's power [into Taiwan] has
been the only panacea he has been relying on to solve all the
political, economic or diplomatic problems he runs into, including
the commodity price hikes and the plunging stock index on the
island. ... Under such circumstances in which China is regarded as
superior while Taiwan is inferior, the answer to the question of who
in the world it is who hopes Washington would shelve its arms sales
to Taiwan so as to avoid irritating China, thereby sabotaging
[Taiwan's] engagement with China, is already self-evident."

B) "In the Talk of Freezing the Arms Sales"

Professor Edward Chen of Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of
American Studies opined in the centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times"
[circulation: 400,000] (7/14):

"... From the circumstance that the United States released various
pieces of information via different channels [regarding the arms
sales between the United States and Taiwan], the purpose of the
United States should be that, it hopes the Ma Administration will
declare its position on arms sales formally, instead of shutting out
its arms sales to Taiwan. The reasons are as follows:

"First, AIT Director Stephen Young has been keeping close contact
with senior officials both in Taiwan's Blue and Green camps and has
spared no efforts to promote [U.S.-Taiwan] arms sales. To say that
a major misunderstanding exists between Taiwan and the United States
regarding the issue of arms sales would be a major insult to Young.
When Ma was inaugurated [on May 20], the United States sent envoy
Andrew Card to lead a congratulatory delegation. AIT Chairman
Raymond Burghardt also had visited Taiwan twice after Ma was elected
President. [The United States] should have a comprehensive
understanding regarding the Ma Administration's determination to
increase the defense budget to three percent of [Taiwan's] GDP and
the Administration's position on arms procurement.

"Second, when [Taiwan's former President] Chen Shui-bian was in
power, [the DPP government] bundled the three most expensive items
of the arms procurement (the submarines, the P-3C anti-submarine
aircraft, and the PAC-3 missiles) as a package. The DPP also
threatened to sell the country's assets and wanted to issue
government bonds [to raise money for the procurement]. Legislators
of the Blue camp were therefore forced to oppose [the arms
procurement from the United States]. This still makes many people
in the United States misconstrue the Blue camp as being opposed to
the arms procurement. The arms procurement was finally approved in

[Taiwan's] Legislative Yuan after the ruling and opposition parties
communicated several times in the latter stages, reaching consensus
to cut down the amount of the arms procurement and budget it year by
year. It is impossible for the United States not to have any idea
about the arms procurement budget that the Legislative Yuan has
approved. The United States must understand that the approval of
the arms procurement budget is legally binding.

"Moreover, during the time when Chen promoted the referendum for
Taiwan to enter the United Nations, the Bush Administration indeed
refused to sell Taiwan F-16 C/D fighter jets and froze the arms
sales for fear that the cooperation between the United States and
China to resolve the North Korean nuclear weapons issue would be
jeopardized. Now, as the situation has changed, since the United
States hopes for Taiwan to strengthen its national defense, it
should not freeze arms sales to Taiwan. Otherwise, what does the Ma
Administration's increase of the defense budget mean? ...

"According to precedent, if the United States has made decisions, it
only needs to inform Taiwan and does not need to give Taiwan any
opportunity to explain. Now, the United States not only allows the
Ma Administration to send senior national security officials as well
as diplomatic and national defense officials to attend U.S.-Taiwan
senior-level military talks to be held in Monterey, California,
starting July 14, but [the United States] also agrees to allow the
delegation of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee of
the Legislative Yuan to visit Washington, D.C. at the end of July to
meet United States national security and national defense officials.
This demonstrates that the United States is still leaving a small
door open with regard to the issue of arms sales. ..."


YOUNG

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