Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-Taiwan Arms Deals
DE RUEHIN #1074/01 2040948
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 220948Z JUL 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9560
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8463
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9687
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001074
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 DEALS
Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused July 22
news coverage on former President Chen Shui-bian, who appeared at
court Monday to defend himself in a defamation lawsuit involving
Taiwan's procurement of Lafayette frigates in 1990; and on the
Cabinet's plan to resolve the flooding problems in Taiwan. In terms
of editorials and commentaries, several op-ed pieces in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" discussed the current state of U.S.
arms sales to Taiwan. One article urged Taiwan to pay close
attention to the warning signals behind the alleged U.S. decision to
shelve arms sales to Taiwan. Another one asserted that Washington
is just using the arms sales matter to remind the Ma Ying-jeou
Administration to act more prudently when seeking to improve
cross-Strait relations. A third op-ed said that the Ma
Administration's attempts to improve cross-Strait relations have
made both the United States and Japan nervous about the changing
dynamic in the region. An editorial in the conservative,
pro-unification, English-language "China Post" said "peace or not,
Taiwan must buy weapons for war, and only from the United States."
A) "Pay Attention to the Warning Signals behind the U.S. Decision to
Shelve Arms Sales [to Taiwan]"
Andrew Yang, Secretary-General of Chinese Council for Advanced
Policy Studies, opined in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
[circulation: 500,000] (7/22):
"... It seems to have become a reality that, during the remainder of
its term in office, the Bush Administration will not make any
decision regarding U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. Congress will go into
recess at the end of July, and it appears that the eight arms
procurement items for Taiwan, which are now pending in the Congress
awaiting its final approval, are not likely to be included on the
agenda of the current Congressional session. When the Congress goes
back into session in late September, the U.S. presidential election
will be drawing near, making it improbable for Congress to discuss
the issue. Therefore, chances are slim that Taiwan's expectations
will be realized for the eight decided-upon arms procurement items
to be approved within the Bush Administration's term of office.
Regarding Washington's decision to shelve the arms sales to Taiwan
this time, we need to be vigilant about the following aspects:
"First, [Admiral Timothy] Keating revealed that the U.S. policy
assessment of its arms sales to Taiwan is related to the proactive
engagement between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and the
increase of peace factors in the Taiwan Strait. In other words,
this is the first time that Washington has linked its arms sales to
Taiwan to factors concerning peaceful interaction between the two
sides of the Taiwan Strait. Even though Washington has emphasized
over and over again that it adheres to the Taiwan Relations Act, its
policy has actually been affected by interactions across the Taiwan
"Second, Keating also revealed that, while determining its arms
sales policy toward Taiwan, Washington has taken into consideration
China's intent to use force against Taiwan, instead of the fact that
Beijing is targeting Taiwan with [over] a thousand missiles. As
long as China shows no political intention to use force against
Taiwan and is working proactively to strengthen peaceful interaction
across the Taiwan Strait, the United States will begin to think
about how it is going to sell arms to Taiwan. But Keating also
emphasized that the U.S. military presence in the Western Pacific is
strong enough to deal with China's military threats. In other
words, the question regarding whether Taiwan has sufficient defense
capabilities has gradually become a less important factor behind
Washington's deterrence against China.
Third, Keating's remarks also manifest that there are hardly any
powerful political activists or policy promoters in Washington
political circles to help proactively to push the U.S. bureaucracy
and to lobby Congress to make arms sales decisions more favorable
for Taiwan. ... The United States' decision to shelve arms sales to
Taiwan has made clear the following two points: First, the United
States has a new assessment of the geo-strategic changes in the
Taiwan Strait. Its decision also shows that, in terms of future
peace in the Taiwan Strait, Washington will put its primary focus on
diplomacy, then on military. Taiwan will face more difficulties in
the future if it wants to solicit Washington's support for U.S. arms
sales to Taiwan. Second, even though Washington will not discuss
its arms sales to Taiwan with Beijing unilaterally, it is obvious
that Beijing has found another channel, namely, using its foreign
relations, economy and cross-Strait relations as tools to strengthen
its lobbying and political maneuvering toward the United States.
These two major changes are significant warning signals to which
Taiwan should pay close attention."
B) "The U.S. Uses Arms Sales to Remind the Ma Administration"
Emerson Chang, director of the Department of International Studies
at Nan Hua University, opined in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
[circulation: 500,000] (7/21):
"... The freeze of arms sales [to Taiwan] was just a move that the
U.S. government used to caution the Ma Administration that it should
not look after one thing and lose track of another while improving
cross-Strait relations. U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Timothy
Keating's remarks that the situation across the Taiwan Strait is
stable, so there is no need to sell arms [to Taiwan] for the time
being, is mostly diplomatic rhetoric. ...
"The existing competitive and cooperative relations between the
United States and China will not change simply because the United
States freezes or continues its arms sales to Taiwan. This argument
was the accepted view when [U.S. President George W.] Bush responded
to [former Chinese President] Jiang Zemin's proposition of '[China]
withdrawing missiles [targeting Taiwan] and [the United States]
ceasing arms sales [to Taiwan]' in 2002. Some officials in the Bush
Administration argue that [Washington] had better not upset China at
the current stage. However, it is impossible to neglect Taiwan, an
important bargaining chip for the military hedge of the United
States, in the long run.
"The freeze of arms sales [to Taiwan] at this time highlights a
question that the Ma Administration has been mulling privately,
which is, in order to bring about China's greatest concessions in
other aspects, should Taiwan show its weakness or strive to be
strong militarily? Judging from China's request [to the United
States] for a permanent freeze of its arms sales to Taiwan as well
as the United States' discontent with Taiwan [recently], Taiwan's
better option should be to strive to be strong first and negotiate
[with China] later."
C) "The U.S. and Japan Take Turns to Test Taiwan's Bottom Line"
Chen I-hsin, a Ph.D. candidate in Economics at the School of
Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, opined in
the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000] (7/21):
"United States Pacific Commander Admiral Timothy Keating indirectly
confirmed during his speech at the Heritage Foundation that the
Pentagon might freeze arms sales to Taiwan. This incident, and a
previous incident in which [a Taiwan fishing boat and a Japanese
frigate] collided in the waters near the Tiaoyutai Islands, might
have the same implication -- namely, Washington and Tokyo are taking
turns to test the new Taipei administration's real intentions. In
other words, those who feel the impact of cross-Strait relations are
definitely not solely people from both sides of the Strait. The
thawing cross-Strait [relations] do not necessarily benefit multiple
"Taiwan's new policies, such as cross-Strait reconciliation and a
diplomatic truce, differ greatly from the backdrop that forms the
United States' current Taiwan Strait structure. If [President] Ma
Ying-jeou eventually decides not to return to the position of
cross-Strait confrontation held by [former Presidents] Chen
[Shui-bian] and Lee [Teng-hui], the structure of the United States'
'Taiwan Relations Act' and the 817 Communique used in handling
[cross-Strait relations] will lose their attached backdrop. As a
result, [the United States] will have to change the hypothesis of
such a backdrop in order continuously to maintain the United States'
interests. In other words, if Washington is ready to change the
paradigm, it will have to find out Taipei's and Beijing's real
preferences. Freezing arms sales to Taiwan has thus become the
[United States'] best touchstone [in its plan] to kill two birds
with one stone. ..." [Ed. Note: the 817 Communique refers to the
August 17, 1982 joint Sino-American communique on arms sales to
D) "U.S. Arms vs. PRC Missiles"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] (7/22):
"Had Washington given former President Chen Shui-bian a similar
public 'ultimatum' that President Ma Ying-jeou's government received
last week, Taiwan would not have stalled procurement of U.S weaponry
for so long. For the past 15 years, Taiwan has not made significant
arms purchases from the U.S.-first, under the second six-year
presidential term of the then-KMT's Lee Teng-hui, a hidden Taiwan
independence promoter; and then the eight years under Chen of the
openly separatist Democratic Progressive Party. Washington was
tolerant of both Lee and Chen because their anti-China and
pro-independence rhetoric provided bargaining chips for the U.S. in
dealings with Beijing. The two countries' relatively poor
background in state and external affairs made it easy for the U.S.
to exploit the no-unification-no-independence and
no-war-no-independence status quo.
"Ma and the KMT have been trained by the American game long and
well. He has forsaken the impossible goal of mainland recovery,
freeing the KMT from its one-China spell; and Beijing becomes a
cousin next door, not an enemy. The U.S. is a democratic friend,
not an anti-China partner. For Chen and Lee, threatening to declare
Taiwan's independence from China while refusing to buy more U.S.
weapons was a viable game of balancing potential friend and foe.
But Ma has neutralized their game. ... Peace or not, Taiwan must
buy weapons for war, and only from the U.S. Taiwan's destiny, like
that of the U.S., is in the hands of arms dealers."