Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations
DE RUEHIN #0119/01 0320927
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 010927Z FEB 10
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3238
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9674
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 1059
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000119
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.-CHINA-TAIWAN RELATIONS
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused Jan. 30
- Feb. 1 news coverage on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, on suspected
Chinese submarine movement in the waters near Kaohsiung on January
27, and on the college entrance exams for Taiwan senior high school
2. Almost every paper discussed the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. A
column in the pro-independence "Liberty Times" said the arms sales
come at the right time to test the ambiguous relationship between
China and the Ma administration and whether the Ma administration
really wants to purchase weapons from the United States. A separate
"Liberty Times" analysis discussed U.S. beef imports to Taiwan. The
article said Washington has got what it wants -- namely, to secure
the export of its bone-in beef to Taiwan. An editorial and a column
in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" both discussed the U.S. arms
sales to Taiwan. The editorial said a huge crisis in terms of
U.S.-Taiwan relations is hiding behind the arms sales, and the
column also said that one has seen obvious changes in terms of
Taiwan's position in the United States Asia-Pacific strategy. A
column in the pro-unification "United Daily News" also discussed the
impact of the U.S. arms sales and U.S. beef imports to U.S.-Taiwan
relations. The article concluded by saying that subtle changes have
been observed in U.S.-Taiwan relations. End summary.
A) "Headache Time for the Ma Administration"
The "Free Talk" column in the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
[circulation: 680,000] wrote (2/1):
"The United States has approved its arms sales [package] to Taiwan,
which, even without the F-16 fighter jets and submarines that Taiwan
desires most, has already made China fly into a rage. The Ma
administration, on the other hand, is holding a hot potato in its
hands, fearing that it will enrage China if it decides to buy [the
weapons], while it will surely make the Taiwan people very angry if
it decides not to. As it stands, these weapons admittedly will not
be able to alter the [military] balance in the Taiwan Strait, but
they have accidentally become a touchstone to test the ambiguous
relationship between China and the Ma administration. ...
"As a matter of fact, Ma's tilting toward China has not only made
Taiwan a victim, but also worried and saddened the free world and
the Western world. The U.S. role of sole superpower in the world
has been gradually threatened by China. ... While seeking to bring
India into the fold to counterbalance China, the United States of
course will not forget Taiwan, the unsinkable aircraft carrier on
the Pacific. It's just that Ma's staunchly pro-China position,
which has been exposed since he assumed office, has caused the U.S.
government to doubt whether [Taiwan] will remain a staunch ally of
the United States. Already there are calls in the U.S. academic
circle for only selling weapons to Taiwan but not helping to defend
the island. This is because they believe that if the Ma
administration itself has befriended China and actively given up
Taiwan's sovereignty, why then should American soldiers sacrifice
their lives to protect Taiwan?
"As a result, the Obama administration's approval of arms sales to
Taiwan this time is indeed a very good idea. On the one hand, it
allows Taiwan to retain its fundamental defense capabilities, while
on the other, it can test whether the Ma administration is genuinely
interested in buying weapons or it was simply lip service. The Ma
administration has now arrived at a three-way junction of the United
States, China and the Taiwan people; the direction he should pick
will be a big headache for him."
B) "The United States Has Long Got What It Wants; Ma Administration
Has Lost It All"
Journalist Fan Cheng-shiang noted in an analysis in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000] (1/30):
"Authoritative sources revealed that regarding opening [Taiwan's
market] to the U.S. beef, the Ma administration's original plan was
that 'Washington would owe Taiwan once.' But unexpectedly, it
turned out to be 'Taiwan owing the United States once,' and Taiwan
has lost very badly. In addition to the cleverness of the U.S
government, the Ma administration's severe miscalculation of the
backlash from the Taiwan public and the chaos [the U.S. beef
controversy has triggered] in Taiwan are also the main reasons that
have resulted in the United States getting an advantage, both in
fame and fortune. ...
"Sources emphasized that in terms of U.S. beef imports to Taiwan,
'the United States has got what it wanted.' Washington, from the
very beginning, wanted to [export to Taiwan] its bone-in beef, which
accounts for 98 percent of [its beef trade with Taiwan], and its
target has never been the dispensable risky parts of U.S. beef.
'[Selling of] ground beef and beef offal were just tactics the
United States used to deceive and disturb.' The Legislative Yuan
passed the [food sanitation] law, and our people were quite pleased
that we had restricted the imports of [U.S.] ground beef and beef
offal. Yet Washington was laughing secretly that Taipei had walked
into its trap, because it was akin to 'making a law' that guarantees
the export of bone-in beef to Taiwan.
"Regarding reports that Washington is considering bringing the case
to the World Trade Organization as a response to the U.S. beef
[controversy in Taiwan], informed sources interpreted such 'leaking
of information' as hopes [on the U.S. side] that it will exercise
pressure on Taiwan, which is implementing the series of
administrative measures [on U.S. beef imports]. That way it can
proactively 'accelerate' the pace to normalize Taiwan's import of
U.S. bone-in beef from cattle less than 30 months of age. ...
During President Ma's transit through the United States this time,
Washington hoped that Ma would promise that Taiwan would not
'unilaterally abrogate' its agreements [with the United States]
again. In the meantime, Taipei also 'openly' reminded Washington
that in the U.S. beef case, Washington has got what it wants and
should know when to stop. Taipei also expressed hopes that both
Taiwan and the United States can put their focus on pragmatically
beginning [bilateral] cooperation on aspects such as trade,
economics, culture and security strategy."
C) "A Huge Shadow behind the [U.S.] Arms Sales [to Taiwan]"
The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 530,000]
"The United States has finally announced its arms sales items to
Taiwan this year. ...What is noteworthy is that in the midst of the
arms sales announcement, there seemed to be some insignificant
details, behind which a huge crisis is hiding. It reminds us of the
warning that 'the devil is in the details.' U.S. National Security
Advisor General James Jones said on January 29: '[Washington] will
likely have consultations with China about arms sales to Taiwan.'
What does this statement reveal? The cornerstone of Taiwan's
security lies in the 'Taiwan Relations Act,' but on the
implementation level, it is based on the 'Six Assurances' made by
the Reagan administration to Taiwan, ... which have served as
guiding principles for Washington in handling U.S.-Taiwan relations
since 1982. Over the past 28 years, these principles have never
once been violated, even when [President] George W. Bush and A-bian
were on bad terms. But lately one can detect ...that the six
assurances are gradually eroding....
"Does the Ma administration really believe that Jones' statement is
a slip of tongue? Or was it something revealed subconsciously
during the process when the White House leadership was gradually
forming a consensus? ... According to U.S. media reports, Beijing
is spending huge amounts of money buying off and lobbying the [U.S.]
Congress, think tanks, and scholars to seek to abolish the [Taiwan
Relations] Act and to stop selling weapons [to Taiwan]. The power
and trend of such a growing force can be seen in recent articles and
calls [made] in the United States. Are Taiwan officials still
saying: 'U.S.-Taiwan relations remain unchanged'?"
D) "Blue Team Has Vanished"
Columnist Antonio Chiang wrote in his column in the mass-circulation
"Apple Daily" [circulation: 530,000] (2/1):
"Every time when Washington announced arms sales to Taiwan, Beijing
issued solemn protests and temporarily called off some exchange
programs [with the United States]. It appears that this has become
a routine ritual. Beijing knows that Washington has to sell
[weapons to Taipei], and Washington knows that Beijing has to
protest against it. It has been like this for more than a decade,
but what is different is that [we have seen] significant changes in
Taiwan's position in the United States' Asia-Pacific strategy. In
the arms sales package this time, the Blackhawk helicopters, Patriot
Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles, mine-hunting ships, and
C4ISR systems are old items [proposed during] the Bian
administration, but the price tags have gone up considerably. Still
there is no news about the F-16 C/D fighters and submarines that
Taiwan wants most. Hardly any optimistic signs can be seen in
[current] Taiwan-U.S. relations. ...
"[The weapons] that the United States is selling Taiwan are all
secondary outdated products, and there is a big gap between these
weapons and those [Washington] sells to Israel, Japan or South
Korea. The United States will not sell its most recently-developed
weapons or offensive weapons to Taiwan, and Beijing is clearly aware
of that. [Beijing and Washington] have a tacit understanding about
it, because the military significance of such arms sales [to Taiwan]
is far less than the announcement [of the arms sales] itself, and
the political significance of the arms sales is much higher than its
international value. Taiwan holds a place in the United States'
strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. But with the rise of China's
national strength and the Ma administration's tilting toward
mainland China, subtle changes have emerged in Taiwan-U.S.
relations. On the surface, [we see that] arms sales go on as usual,
but the United States deliberately will not give what Taiwan really
wants. What is really serious is that the voices of the 'blue
team,' which has supported Taiwan for a long time, can hardly be
heard any more. ..."
E) "The Taste of Weapons plus Beef"
The "Black and White" column in the pro-unification "United Daily
News" [circulation: 400,000] (2/1):
"Various developments have been seen regarding [U.S.] arms sales to
Taiwan and the [U.S.] beef [controversy], respectively, prior to and
in the wake of President Ma's transit through the United States.
The Obama administration announced that it would sell weapons worth
NTD 200 billion to Taiwan on the one hand, and rumors had it that
Washington will appeal to the World Trade Organization about
Taiwan's restrictions on U.S. beef [imports]. Between this goodwill
and tension, one can see subtle changes in the triangular
relationship between Washington, Beijing and Taipei. ...
"In terms of U.S. beef, Taiwan indeed has striven for more self
initiative and dignity. But judging from a bigger perspective, we
may also have to pay a higher price for this, including changes in
the price tags of the arms sales, procrastination in the bilateral
trade and economic talks, and also the blisters in Taiwan-U.S.
relations. If one wants to carefully and seriously calculate the
gains and losses, [one has to ask:] Is it really wise for the
ruling and opposition parties to jointly revise the [food
sanitation] law? The answer is probably no. ..."