Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-Taiwan Arms Sales, U.S.-China-Taiwan
DE RUEHIN #1353/01 2590646
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 150646Z SEP 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9939
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8596
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0045
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001353
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, U.S.-CHINA-TAIWAN
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage September 13-15 on Typhoon Sinlaku's pounding of Taiwan
over the weekend and the import of tainted Chinese milk powder to
Taiwan. In terms of editorials and commentaries, the centrist,
KMT-leaning "China Times" published an argument proposed by retired
Taiwan air force Commander Lee Kuei-fa for the second time to oppose
Taiwan government's procurement of F-16 fighter jets, submarines,
missiles, and Apache helicopters from the United States. An op-ed
in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" listed
several tests to the direction of Beijing's post-Olympics
development in terms of domestic human rights, nationalism and
cross-Strait relations. The op-ed said that the opening of the UN
General Assembly on September 16, in which China's attitude toward
Taiwan's UN bid, will be the first test. An editorial in the
pro-independence, "Taiwan News" commented on the implications of DPP
Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen's visit to the United States recently. End
2. U.S.-Taiwan Arms Sales
"The Myth of Arms Sales; When Will the Brainwashing Evil Tune Stop"
C.V. Chen, President of the Red Cross Society of the Republic of
China and the former Secretary-General of Taiwan's Straits Exchange
Foundation, wrote in a column in the centrist, KMT-leaning "China
Times" [circulation: 400,000] (9/15):
"... [We often hear] either those scholars who uphold the arms
procurement [from the United States] as paramount, or the
government, which is too cowardly to change or to challenge the
thinking on arms procurement, but interestingly, we seldom heard
them explain to the people item by item from the perspective of
national defense and strategy why we need to purchase the F-16
fighter jets, submarines, and Apache helicopters on the procurement
list. We only see a constant, brainwashing evil tune, which says
that the arms procurement is good and therefore not to procure arms
"Over a month ago, former Taiwan's Air Force Operations Commander
Lee Kuei-fa proposed a report on the setup and reform of [Taiwan's]
national defense to Minister of National Defense Chen Chao-min.
Based on the air force's strategy and profession, [Lee] recommended
ceasing the procurement of the F-16 fighter jets.
"Former Commander Lee pointed out the current absurdity of arms
procurement from the perspective of his profession. He [Lee]
pointed out that huge expenses for the maintenance of an air force
with four hundred fighter jets will push out other necessary
procurements of weapons systems in other services. He [Lee] pointed
out that in order to avoid the massive destruction in the beginning
of a war, the main fighter jets will be put in underground caves.
However, 'the security of caves is not equivalent to the security of
bases.' The take-off and landing of fighter jets requires runways
that are of sufficient length. Once a war breaks out, the Chinese
Communists must attack bases to make them unusable. Fighters that
cannot take off are equivalent to scrap iron.
"He [Lee] also thought that there is no need to procure so many
submarines and missiles. Submarines do not fit in with the combat
needs in the Taiwan Strait. As long as the People's Liberation Army
Navy adjusts the direction of its sea attack and proceeds to Taiwan
along the continental shelf, [Taiwan's] submarines will be useless.
In terms of missiles, the Chinese Communists possess almost 1,500 M
missiles [short range ballistic missiles]. Assuming we purchase the
600 new type of Patriot missiles, and all of them intercept the
incoming M missiles, the Chinese Communists still possess almost one
thousand missiles to attack us with. The price per Patriot missile
that the United States military sold us is triple that of the
Chinese Communist's M missile. It is almost an incentive in
disguised form for the Chinese Communists to develop missiles and
deplete our finances.
"Nevertheless, former Commander Lee's 10,000-word letter [i.e.,
serious reminder] was a waste of words and in vain. ...
"The unit price of one Apache helicopter is 14.5 million dollars.
However, when Greece purchased twelve [Apache helicopters] in
September 2003, the total price was 675 million dollars with weapons
and logistics. The unit price [of one Apace helicopter] therefore
increased to 56.25 million dollars. In other words, one Apache
helicopter cost [the Taiwan] people 1.6 billion New Taiwan dollars.
"The main capability of an Apache helicopter that costs 1.6 billion
New Taiwan dollars is 'anti-tank.' However, [the Apache
helicopter's] self-defense capability is always called into
question. [The Apache helicopter] is prone to attacks on the ground
and to damage. In other words, in the strategic scenario of the
Taiwan Strait, Apache helicopters' participation in the war is
predicated on the Chinese Communists's tanks landing in Taiwan.
After that, the Apache helicopters would be dispatched.
"However, isn't this contradiction not obvious enough? Once the
Chinese Communists's military has landed in Taiwan, doesn't it mean
that Taiwan has lost superiority in the sea and air? How can [we]
expect the Apache helicopters to 'do their utmost to save a
desperate situation' and change the combat situation? Can the
[Taiwan] government guarantee that the Apache helicopter will not
become 'a prohibitive bun' with per price at 1.6 billion New Taiwan
dollars and the result of dispatching [a helicopter] in the war will
not be like using a meat bun to hit a dog without return?"
3. U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations
A) "What Did Beijing Gain from Games"
Richard Halloran, a writer based in Hawaii, opined in the
pro-independence, "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (9/15):
"... A critical question is how Beijing's renewed confidence might
affect the politburo's running struggle to subdue and eventually to
take control of Taiwan.
"Relations between Taipei and Beijing have warmed up in recent
months under President Ma Ying-jeou, but an early test will come up
when the UN General Assembly convenes tomorrow. Taiwan has asked
that it be permitted to 'participate' in UN activities and those of
its affiliated organizations such as the WHO.
"Before, Taiwan asked to join the UN or to become an observer. Each
time, China adamantly opposed that arrangement, contending that
Taiwan was part of China and that Beijing spoke for Taiwan. This
time, US officials said, Washington favors the approach by Taiwan
since it skirts the issue of sovereignty over Taiwan. If Beijing
blocks Taiwan's participation, that may indicate that China's
hostility is unabated.
"Similarly, another test of China's attitude will come next month
when APEC meets in Peru. In previous years, the Chinese have
insisted that only a low-ranking official from Taiwan be allowed to
attend. This year, Taiwan will seek to have a high-level official
there. China will be watched closely to see if its opposition to
Taiwan has eased.
"A third test is likely sometime this fall when the US approves a
long-awaited arms sale to Taiwan. A series of quiet meetings
between senior US officials and those of Taiwan appear to have
repaired relations between Washington and Taipei that had been
damaged by disagreements over China policy between the Bush
administration and the government of former president Chen
"Beijing will undoubtedly protest the sale, as it always has, but
the heat of the protest will indicate whether Beijing has become
confident enough to state its objections in a lower key."
B) "Tsai's Timely Visit"
The pro-independence, "Taiwan News" [circulation: 20,000]
"... First, DPP Chairperson Tsai [Ing-wen] sent a clear message that
the DPP is engaging in a critical generation change from the era
dominated by former president Chen Shui-bian and other 'heroes' of
Taiwan's democratic movement and transition and pledged to introduce
a different style of DPP political action as an opposition that will
rationally and steadfastly monitor and engage in 'check and balance'
with the returned Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang)
administration under President Ma Ying-jeou. ...
"Second, Tsai reminded U.S. foreign policy circles of the hefty and
long-term price that Washington, as well as the Taiwan people, will
have to pay if the U.S. continues to laud Ma's cross-strait
'reconciliation' through appeasement of the Chinese Communist
Party-ruled People's Republic of China and if they persist in
overlooking the downside of an unbalanced triangle between the U.S.,
Taiwan and the PRC. Most Washington observers tend to believe that
even if Ma's policy of appeasing the People's Republic of China
might cause some problems, there would still be enough time to treat
the resulting 'cancer,' unlike the 'heart attacks' of 'surprises'
allegedly initiated by Chen during his eight years in office.
"Even worse is the fact that the notion that 'Taiwan is no longer a
strategic asset for the U.S.' has been floating around in Washington
for quite some time, especially after Bush began to construct what
he saw as a 'personal relationship' with PRC State Chairman Hu
Jintao. Moreover, Ma's decision not to 'irritate' the PRC with
'trouble-making' assertions of Taiwan's sovereignty is seen as
fitting in with Bush's desire to secure Beijing's assistance on
global security issues such as Iraq, North Korea and Georgia. ...
"Ma's redefinition of Taiwan's relationship with the PRC as 'region
to region' instead of the 'state-to-state' definition held by former
KMT president Lee Teng-hui and Chen himself poses a grave danger to
Taiwan's sovereignty, dignity and democracy by sending a wrong
message to the world community that Taiwan does not see itself as an
"Finally, Tsai began the reconstruction of a trustworthy but healthy
relationship with Washington to overcome four years of deadlock and
frequent misperceptions of mutual interests in the wake of Bush's
dislike of Chen alleged 'trouble-making' referenda despite the
explanations by the former DPP administration of the necessity of
Taiwan's democratic consolidation and the intensity of PRC pressure.