Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Beef Imports, U.S.-Taiwan Relations
DE RUEHIN #1540/01 3650806
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 310806Z DEC 09
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3028
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9590
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0977
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001540
DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/P, EAP/PD - THOMAS HAMM
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: U.S. BEEF IMPORTS, U.S.-TAIWAN RELATIONS
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused
December 31 news coverage on the United States' statement in
response to Taiwan legislature's decision to amend the Act Governing
Food Sanitation which violates the beef protocol signed between
Taiwan and the United States. Local newspapers have prominent
coverage of stories on the matter, stating that the controversy has
become the first crisis in U.S.-Taiwan relations since Ma Ying-jeou
assumed office in May 2008. Local newspapers were very concerned
about how the Ma Ying-jeou administration is going to explain to the
United States about this matter. A review of the year 2009 and
events to welcome the year 2010 all around the island of Taiwan are
also covered extensively in newspapers.
2. There are various editorials and commentaries on the U.S. beef
controversy. An editorial in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
warned that the people of Taiwan and the legislature have to be
ready to jointly take the punishment that the United States is going
to mete out to Taiwan. An op-ed in the pro-unification "United
Daily News" said it is true the United States is very angry at the
legislature for revising the amendments to the Act Governing Food
Sanitation which violates the beef protocol signed between Taiwan
and the United States. However, it is unlikely that the United
States will retaliate against Taiwan on all matters. An editorial
in the KMT-leaning "China Times" criticized the Legislative Yuan's
cross-party consensus to amend the Act which violates the beef
protocol signed between Taiwan and the United States. The editorial
said the legislature's decision has tainted Taiwan's credibility
internationally and the legislature must be accountable for the
outcome of the decision. An editorial in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" raised several issues remained to be
watched closely following the legislature's decision to amend the
Act. The editorial further added that the U.S. beef issue should
serve as a good lesson for the Ma Ying-jeou administration if the Ma
administration insists on signing an Economic Cooperation Framework
Agreement (ECFA) with China. An editorial in another
pro-independence paper, the English-language "Taiwan News" urged the
United States to respect the will of the Taiwan people and the
reality of Taiwan's democratic system. Regarding relations between
the United States and Taiwan, an editorial in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" echoed an article written by Bruce Gillery in a
journal "Foreign Affairs" saying that Taiwan is quickly undergoing a
process of "Finlandization." The editorial blamed President Ma
Ying-jeou's ultimate goal of "sinicizing" Taiwan and reminded the
United States to take Taiwan's mainstream public opinion seriously.
3. U.S. Beef Imports
A) "Retribution for Black Box Work"
The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000]
"The storm around the U.S. beef issue is getting close to Taiwan.
The United States' retaliation will be shared by all people in
Taiwan and the outcome is still difficult to predict. From now on,
Taiwan has to be mentally prepared for retaliation by the United
States and China from time to time. ...
"The United States will have a lot of retaliatory measures, such as
refusing to discuss the framework of economic and trade favors
between the United States and Taiwan, lowering the level of visits
between officials, and delaying visa-waiver treatment. [Taiwan's
National Security Council Secretary-General] Su Chi and other people
signed the deal [with the United States] secretly, and the result
has to be shouldered by the legislature and all the people of
Taiwan. The Ma Ying-jeou administration is in big trouble. ..."
B) "To Prevent a Tilt Toward China, U.S. Anger Will Not Result in
Yen Chen-shen, a research fellow at the First Division of the
Institute of International Relations (IIR) at the National Chengchi
University, opined in the pro-unification "United Daily News"
[circulation: 400,000] (12/31):
"... Will the United States really take retaliatory measures
[against Taiwan]? If we simply look at the conclusion of a joint
statement by the two deputy chiefs of the two U.S. departments,
'This is a serious matter that concerns us greatly and we are
monitoring the legislative process very closely,' the United States
is really very angry. However, it is unlikely that [the United
States] will link this issue to other non-economic issues. The U.S.
Congress just approved arms sales to Taiwan which have been delayed
for years. There is no need to pull back the sales, and it is
impossible that the United States would do so. Regarding the people
of Taiwan being included in the United States' visa-waiver program,
it is mainly an issue which is foundering on technical problems with
Taiwan passports. After the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA)
issues new passports [with electronic chips], the United States
should respond with goodwill. After all, under the circumstances of
the economic downturn in the United States, it is unlikely that [the
United States] would set aside its desire to increase the number of
"Under the circumstances of closer cross-Strait relations, if the
United States retaliates against Taiwan in any form, such as
indefinitely postponing the talks on Trade and Investment Framework
Agreement (TIFA), or refusing to discuss a free trade agreement
(FTA), it will only further warm up the economic and trade
relationships between Taiwan and China which are already hot. Once
a cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) is
signed, the mutual reliance of the cross-Strait economies will
increase and such an outcome would have an impact on the economic
and trade relationship between Taiwan and the United States. This
will certainly not be a development that Washington is pleased to
see. Based on this perspective, it is predictable that the United
States is unlikely to take non-economic retaliatory measures
[against Taiwan]. Even though [the United States] is discontent
with our executive branch, it will only throw some tough questions
to Taiwan about economic issues - which will not push Taiwan towards
mainland China. [Such a move is] to make Taipei understand the
guiding role of the United States in U.S.-Taiwan relations."
C) "Legislative Yuan Likely to Pay a Stiff Price for Amending Law to
Obstruct U.S. Beef"
The KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 120,000] editorialized
"... Whether the Legislative Yuan's amendment [to the Act Governing
Food Sanitation] is a result of careful deliberation, or an
irresponsible decision, will have to be evaluated based on the
effects internally or externally. In one word, the Legislative Yuan
must take political responsibility for a decision which concerns
foreign affairs. ... Taiwan, as a sovereign country which should
abide by international commitments, must be responsible for
commitments made by its diplomatic representatives. The beef
protocol is within the discretion of the executive branch and does
not transcend [the executive authority]. It is unjustifiable to
make laws to retract [the protocol]. ..."
D) "U.S. Beef as an ECFA Litmus Test"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (12/31):
"... At an unscheduled press conference yesterday, Presidential
Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi said that after the legislative recess,
Ma would form a task force of lawmakers, experts, civic groups and
consumer groups to visit the U.S. on a fact-finding mission. An
obvious question is why Ma did not think of this before acting
unilaterally and negotiating with the U.S. on lifting beef bans.
Had he done so, he could have saved himself the embarrassment that
has eventuated. ...
"The next question is whether anyone from the executive responsible
for this political and diplomatic mess - say, National Security
Council Secretary-General Su Chi, who ought to be dealing with
security threats, not food fights - will be held to account for the
resources that have been wasted on this issue over the past two
E) "Taiwan Lawmakers Send Message to U.S. and PRC"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (12/31):
"The bipartisan consensus reached Tuesday in Taiwan's national
legislature to agree to approve amendments to the food sanitation
act banning imports of risky beef products from countries where
cases of mad cow disease have been documented sent a ringing message
that foreign powers cannot ignore the will of the Taiwan people and
the reality of Taiwan's democratic system. ...
"Not surprisingly, the U.S. government is somewhat peeved at the
reversal. A joint statement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
and the U.S. Trade Representative Office expressed disappointment
that the proposed changes would 'unjustifiably bar import of certain
U.S. beef and beef products,' 'have no basis in science or fact' and
would constitute an 'unilateral abrogation' of the October 22
protocol that would impact 'on Taiwan's reputation as a reliable
trading partner and responsible member of the international
"The USDA and USTR neglected to note that the revisions would
basically just continue an existing ban and also skip over the facts
that the risk caucus for BSE is entirely different from other
pathogens and that there is no 'acceptable' level of risk for the
entry of BSE into Taiwan's food chain. As noted by the USDA's own
Food Safety and Inspection Service, there are no effective
preventative tests or effective treatment for BSE and prions, the
suspected agent, cannot be killed by cooking, which means that
consumers cannot 'protect themselves.' ...
"Although National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi
publically declared that the protocol was 'above domestic law,' the
presidential office shifted gears yesterday and urged Washington to
respect the public will expressed through Taiwan's democratic
process and announced that it would send a delegation to Washington
to explain the Legislative Yuan's actions. Hopefully, the Ma
government will include lawmakers from all parties who are
knowledgeable in public health affairs and representatives from
Taiwan consumer and health related civic organizations so that U.S.
officials can get a comprehensive account with a minimum of partisan
4. U.S.-Taiwan Relations
"We Want To Remind the United States: Look at the Mainstream Public
Opinion in Taiwan"
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000]
"President Ma Ying-jeou's leaning toward China has put Taiwan's
allies on their guard. In the latest edition of the journal
'Foreign Affairs,' U.S. scholar Bruce Gillery pointed out that
Finland had a reconciliation policy to appeal to the former Soviet
Union during the Cold War to maintain Finland's autonomy and not to
be annexed by the former Soviet Union; the circumstances of Taiwan,
after Ma Ying-jeou took office, are very similar to that of post-war
Finland. Gillery also recommended that the United States cease
arms sales to Taiwan, and make Taiwan neutral, and exclude Taiwan
from [the United States'] alliances in Asia. ...
"Using Finlandization to describe the Ma administration's leaning
toward China perhaps underestimates how serious the situation is.
To be more appropriate, the Ma administration has not only
Finlandized Taiwan, even more, [the Ma administration] has sinicized
"It is not hard to imagine that if President Ma purposely sinicizes
Taiwan, the United States' ongoing arms sales to Taiwan would be the
equivalent of selling the U.S. arms to China, and [U.S.] arms would
be likely to be used by China to attack the United States.
Therefore, Gillery recommended that the United States cease arms
sales to Taiwan. ...
"In fact, even if the Ma administration leans toward China, most of
the people of Taiwan still prefer independence and autonomy. The
U.S. academic circles and the U.S. government should be on their
guard with an eye to the Ma administration and at the same time
accurately see the mainstream public opinion in Taiwan. ..."