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


DE RUEHIN #1021/01 2330910
R 210910Z AUG 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage August 21 on the possible Cabinet reshuffle in early
September due to the Ma Ying-jeou administration's poor handling of
the response to Typhoon Morakot; on the plummeting approval ratings
of the Ma administration; and on the on-going rescue and relief
efforts in typhoon-stricken southern Taiwan. In terms of editorials
and commentaries, an op-ed piece in the pro-independence "Liberty
Times" discussed the political implications perceived from the
rescue and relief operations provided by the U.S. military. A
column in the KMT-leaning "China Times" said it is impractical to
associate the U.S. military rescue missions in Taiwan this time with
the idea that the United States will come to Taiwan's rescue once
the island is invaded. An editorial in the KMT-leaning,
China-focused "Want Daily" discussed the "confusing" phenomenon in
Taiwan's media and among some Taiwan people, who are ecstatic to see
the United States sending military aircraft to Taiwan. The article
said that what is important for these people is that "even though
[Taiwan's] adopted father, the United States, has severed diplomatic
ties [with the island], it remains Taiwan's powerful patron." An
editorial in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times"
lambasted the Ma administration's incompetence and "lackadaisical
attitude to the human suffering caused by Typhoon Morakot." The
article said Ma is "preoccupied" with China, not Taiwan, and such a
mentality is hurting those people who cast votes in favor of him.
End summary.

A) "What [Kind of] Rescue and Relief Effort Does the United States

Tainan City Councilor Chiu Li-li opined in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" [circulation: 700,000] (8/21):

"The U.S. government has been behaving very actively in joining in
the rescue and relief efforts [in Taiwan] in the wake of Typhoon
Morakot. Judging the mentality of the U.S. government from the
perspective of a Taiwan resident, [we may] roughly arrive at three
points of political implications: First, having observed [the KMT
government] for a year, the U.S. government does not believe that
the Ma Ying-jeou administration is capable of handling the rescue
and relief operations properly. [Washington also believes that] if
it does not come forth and make the Ma administration feel the
pressure to [carry out] the rescue operations, Taiwan's damaged
situation will remain unresolved and [will expand] to such an extent
that it can hardly be controlled. Based on humanitarian concerns,
[the United States] certainly will not be happy to see such a
development, and an immediate action to step forward highlights the
U.S. image of [supporting] international justice in a timely

"Second, the fact that the U.S. government was anxious to take
action was also because it wanted to prevent Ma, who is tilting
toward China, from using the rescue and relief efforts as an
opportunity for China to push for unification. This is closely
related to the strategic layout in the Asia-Pacific region, and Ma's
China-tilting governing mentality has kept the United States on its
toes; [such a mentality] is by no means just internal political
criticism from the Green camp only. Third, this year happens to be
the thirtieth anniversary of the enactment of the 'Taiwan Relations
Act (TRA).' Earlier this year, China's Foreign Ministry had
expressed strong displeasure about the efforts by some U.S.
congressmen to endorse a joint resolution to mark the thirtieth
anniversary of the TRA. Given that the United States has acted very
quickly to participate in Taiwan's rescue and relief missions, some
people in Taiwan who are keen students of the TRA said the legal
basis [that Washington used for] sending out the U.S. military is
closely related to the TRA. Should this be the case, it is thus
very clear that the mentality of the U.S. government and Congress to
insist on the intactness of the TRA has not faded away over time.

B) "Taiwan's Defense Strategy"

Columnist Norman Fu wrote in his column in the KMT-leaning "China
Times" [circulation: 120,000] (8/21):

"Recently, Typhoon Morakot has caused unprecedented damage in
Taiwan. The U.S. military sending naval vessels and helicopters [to
conduct] humanitarian assistance missions [in Taiwan] has caused the
public to face the political question -- namely, would the U.S.
military come to Taiwan's rescue if the island were under external
invasion? ... What deserves [our] attention, however, is a
twenty-page report on 'Taiwan's Defense Strategy' published by some
pro-Taiwan people on August 3, just a few days prior to Typhoon

"The defense strategy worked out in this report for Taiwan can be
summed up with four English letters: DDRP -- namely, deter, defend,
repel and partner. Judging from the four steps, these friends of
Taiwan have put the focus of the strategy to defend Taiwan on the

first three letters. In other words, when it comes to defense,
Taiwan mainly has to rely on itself; 'partner' is a last [resort]
and thus not reliable. This is because given Beijing's constant
military modernization and preparations over the past three decades,
the military balance across the Taiwan Strait has long since tipped
in favor of China.

"It goes without saying that the word 'partner' refers to the United
States. But Beijing has always regarded the United States as its
hypothetical enemy in [its plan to] use force against Taiwan. As a
result, [China's] military expansion has always used three Ds as its
objectives -- namely, to deter, delay and deny the United States
from coming to Taiwan's rescue. Given such a situation, the U.S.
military forces may not necessarily be able to stop Beijing from
invading Taiwan, and even if it intervenes, [the U.S. military] will
not necessarily be certain [about its likelihood] to win the war.
That is why 'partner' is listed at the end of the 'four keys' for
Taiwan's defense strategy. Having understood [such a basic truth],
we must no longer hold unpractical ideas that Taiwan's security
[should] rely on the United States. ..."

C) "The Taiwan Adopted Sons of Uncle Sam"

The China-leaning "Want Daily" [circulation: 10,000] editorialized

"... Even though the United States emphasized that this is
humanitarian aid, and the materials it has shipped [to Taiwan] are
military plastic tarpaulins and several heavy lift helicopters, the
move [itself], to everyone's surprise, has satisfied some people's
psychological condition, regardless of the fact that no victims have
yet to be rescued. Some media [outlets] even used whole-page photos
and consecutive news stories to report the news of the U.S. military
coming to Taiwan. It appears that the message they [sought to]
deliver to the readers and audience [in Taiwan] was that the U.S.
military's protective umbrella has been spread open above Taiwan.
Media reports have constantly emphasized that this is the first time
in many years that U.S. military aircraft have landed in Taiwan, how
superior the capabilities of the [U.S.] military aircraft are, and
the political implications behind the [U.S.] military presence in
Taiwan. The purpose of [these reports] was nothing less than to
convey the feeling that [people] are too embarrassed to tell:
namely, Taiwan is still under the wings of the United States, and
Taiwan people should thus feel secure!

"The reactions of [the Taiwan] media and many [Taiwan] people to the
U.S. military coming to Taiwan have been quite confusing. More
interestingly, such reactions and feelings were shared by the Blue
and Green camps alike. In Taiwan, there are not too many things
that one can hardly tell whether it is [supported by] Blue or Green.
For those who were ecstatic when they saw the United States sending
military aircraft to Taiwan, it is no longer important to tell Blue
from Green. What is important [to them] is that even though
[Taiwan's] adopted father, the United States, has severed diplomatic
ties [with the island], it remains Taiwan's powerful patron. ..."

D) "Ma Has China in Mind, not Taiwan"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (8/21):

"President Ma Ying-jeou has been roundly condemned for his and the
government's lackadaisical attitude to the human suffering caused by
Typhoon Morakot. ... Unfortunately, Ma, ever the opportunist, has
taken advantage of the public's lowered guard to further his
cross-strait agenda, exploiting demands for improvements to
government rescue efforts to make subtle yet significant changes to
the military's objectives. These changes will in all probability
weaken an already demoralized fighting force. Speaking at a press
conference on Wednesday, Ma said that disaster prevention and rescue
would become the main task of the armed forces and that nature --
not China, with its 1,500 ballistic missiles and growing arsenal of
high-tech weaponry -- was now Taiwan's biggest enemy.

"Ma promised to buy 15 fewer Black Hawk helicopters from the US than
previously planned and use the savings on new rescue equipment. A
disturbing consequence of Morakot, therefore, has been a further
reduction in military strength and an even softer attitude toward
the only country that threatens Taiwan. China's belligerence has not
waned, nor has it retracted its threat to use force against Taiwan.
Another issue that has escaped the attention of many in this time of
crisis is the government's failure to put together a UN bid this
year. ... If Ma wants to win a second term, he needs to stop
focusing on China and start focusing on Taiwan. His preoccupation
with the 'mainland' is hurting the very people who made him what he


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