Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan


DE RUEHIN #0126/01 0330957
R 020957Z FEB 10




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused
February 2 news coverage on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan; on
developments in cross-Strait relations; on the reform of the KMT;
and on the year-end five city and county magistrates' elections.

2. Editorials and commentaries in the Chinese-language papers
continued to discuss the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. An editorial
and an analysis in the pro-independence "Liberty Times" criticized
the KMT for opposing the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan when it was the
opposition party, and said President Ma Ying-jeou's tilting toward
China has resulted in a non-equidistant relationship between
Washington, Beijing and Taipei. A column in the mass-circulation
"Apple Daily" said Beijing has decided to adopt a tough attitude
toward U.S. arms sales to Taiwan because it was both annoyed and
frustrated with President Barack Obama and Ma Ying-jeou. Two op-ed
pieces in the pro-unification "United Daily News" also discussed
U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. One articles said Taiwan needs to take
precautions against a possible disaster caused by U.S. arms sales to
Taiwan, while the other article said both Washington and Beijing are
putting on a show, but Taiwan needs to shed tears of gratitude. An
editorial in the KMT-leaning "China Times" said problems need to be
resolved in terms of Washington-Beijing-Taipei ties in the wake of
U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. An editorial in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" said "if China can brew such a storm
over what is an arms sale that was meant to please all sides and
minimize the damage to Sino-US relations, then the chances of Taiwan
getting the weapons it really needs look alarmingly slim." End

A) "The Taiwan Issue Is a Subject Involving the International
Community and Must Not Go as Whatever Ma Ying-jeou Says So "

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000]
editorialized (2/2):

"The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency finally announced an
arms sales package to Taiwan over the weekend, including the Patriot
Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles. ... Having received this
'belated gift,' Taiwan really needs to study and figure out: How
come the two most important main dishes on the menu that we want to
purchase -- F-16 C/D fighter jets and diesel-fueled submarines --
were not served? What kind of truth has Beijing's stern and blunt
reaction [to the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan] told us in terms of its
Taiwan policy? The fact that Obama chose to make public at this
moment his decision to sell defensive weapons to Taiwan, though not
totally unexpected, has indeed reflected that the global climate is
changing silently. ...

"Washington announced the five military items it wants to sell
Taiwan, making sure that it will not become an outsider in terms of
the rapidly developing political and economic relations between
Taiwan and China. In the meantime, despite the dispute over [the
U.S. military base in] Futenma, Okinawa, the governments of the
United States and Japan also decided to hold high-level negotiations
on the U.S.-Japan security treaty in Tokyo today. The two countries
will also host a foreign minister dialogue in Hawaii next week to
discuss how to deepen their alliance in the face of China's rise and
Pyongyang's nuclear problem. All these showed that the Obama
administration, unwilling to make the outside world mistakenly
believe that [the United States] is 'absent' [from Asia], has
changed its policy direction into proactively participating in the
Asia-Pacific region. This is a subtle yet interesting adjustment in
terms of the dynamic balance in the region. ...

"The procurement of F-16 C/D fighter jets is essential to Taiwan's
air force's plan to strengthen its air domination, and the gradual
acquisition of the submarines further involves an overhaul of
[Taiwan's] defense strategy. Both are about Taiwan's common
national interests. How will the KMT, which used to criticize the
Bian administration's [loosely] assembled and exploitive arms
procurements, [National Security Council Secretary-General] Su Chi,
who used to stubbornly oppose [arms procurements] in the Legislative
Yuan..., and Ma Ying-jeou, who was then the KMT chairman, look at
what they did in the past? ..."

B) "Washington, Beijing and Taipei Are Not Equidistant; Ma Makes the
Wrong Chess Move by Tilting toward China"

Journalist Lo Tien-ping noted in an analysis in the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000] (2/2):

"...In the midst of the People's Liberation Army generals'
criticisms against Ma Ying-jeou, the delicate balance between the
Chinese doves and hawks toward Taiwan has been broken. China's
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Defense, which
hold a tough stance toward Taiwan, were standing on the front line
criticizing Washington and Taipei. The Chinese authorities not only
did not stop them but gave tacit permission. This development all
the more indicated that the thinking of the Chinese authorities has
now changed, and Beijing is more confident now in its ability to
change U.S. policy. For Taiwan, this is a serious warning signal.

"The Ma administration believes that it can strike a balance in the
development of the triangular relationship between Washington,
Beijing and Taipei, and it has constantly denied the outside
criticisms that Ma is pro-China and tilting toward China. But this
is just an image that deceives Ma himself and others. It is indeed
a fact that China is growing more and more powerful, and the
development of the triangular relationship between Washington,
Beijing and Taipei is no longer as equidistant as it was before. As
one party of this triangular power, Taiwan needs to make a choice --
namely, it is the correct path to lean toward the power of freedom
and democracy, which will be conducive to Taiwan's interests as a

C) "Beijing No Long Conceals Its Abilities and Bides Its Time"

Columnist Antonio Chiang wrote in his column in the mass-circulation
"Apple Daily" [circulation: 530,000] (2/2):

"... The United States has been selling weapons to Taiwan for three
decades, and there is nothing new in the arms sales package this
time; all of the items were long-pending ones, and Washington had
also notified Beijing about it in advance. Unexpectedly, China's
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of National Defense, National
People's Congress, and the Chinese People's Political Consultative
Conference unanimously voiced strongly-worded protests and announced
that they would suspend exchanges of visits [between the United
States and China] for the time being and impose sanctions against
the companies that sell weapons to Taiwan. ...

"This phenomenon reflected the following new developments: First,
China's mounting public opinion and increasingly powerful national
confidence have generated an impact on Beijing's foreign relations.
Second, starting from the later period of the term of office of
George W. Bush to the Obama administration, U.S.-China relations
have reached an unprecedented new peak over the past six decades.
China has particularly high expectations for Obama, thus its
backlash is particularly strong. They thought they have seen major
changes in U.S.-China relations, so they are both irritated and
frustrated to see that the bilateral relationship is back to square
one. China used to force itself to integrate into the international
community and has been trying very hard to adapt itself to Western
standards. Today's China believes it is on an equal footing with
the United States. But the [U.S.] arms sales to Taiwan was like
pouring cold water on Beijing, and the latter's expression of its
anger was a way purely to placate the Chinese popular sentiments.

"Another more important goal was to express Beijing's disappointment
toward Ma Ying-jeou. ... Washington had notified Beijing in advance
[of its arms sales to Taipei] this time. It was 'notifying'
nominally, but in fact it could be also discussing, nearly
tantamount to consultations. Even though Beijing condemned [the
move], U.S.-China relations have actually moved a step forward.
Taiwan will be really stupid if it is still feeling good about

D) "A Storm Breaks out between the United States and China; Taiwan
Must Take Precautions against a Possible Disaster"

Dr. Cheng Tuan-yao from National Chengchi University's Institute of
International Relations, opined in the pro-unification "United Daily
News" [circulation: 400,000] (2/2):

"The U.S. Obama administration announced recently that it will sell
weapons worth US$6.4 billion to Taiwan. Such a big move has
immediately enraged Beijing. Chinese officials have quickly
proposed four tit-for-tat measures, ... and it does not rule out the
possibility of more powerful, follow-on movements. It appears that
a storm in terms of the triangular relationship between Washington,
Beijing and Taipei has suddenly emerged. ...

"As a small country, Taiwan is facing a dilemma when sandwiched
between two big powers; it relies on security support from the
United States and is in need of China's economic interests. Taipei
is now negotiating the signing of an Economic Cooperation Framework
Agreement with Beijing, and unavoidably, it is concerned whether the
arms sales storm will affect the progress of cross-Strait economic
and trade talks. Also, the growing tension between Washington and
Beijing will pose a challenge to Taipei's middle-of-the-road
strategy. ... Now the arms sales storm is causing disturbances to
the rare [friendly triangular relationship between Washington,
Beijing and Taipei.] The United States intentionally wants to prove
that Washington remains the one that steers the triangular
relationship, while China is attempting to resist with all its might
Washington's influence on Taipei. Taipei, on the other hand, has to
take precautions against a possible disaster by re-adjusting and
pursuing a right position in the relationship."

E) "Washington, Beijing Acting a Two-Man Show, and Taiwan Has to
Shed Tears of Gratitude"

Taiwan's former Ambassador to South Africa Loh I-cheng opined in the
pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000] (2/2):

"The United States is highly capable of handling its foreign
relations in a way that it can pick the right moment and pay the
minimum price in exchange for the greatest benefits for itself. The
weapons that Washington sold Taipei this time are worth NT$204.5
billion, which is a very large figure for the ordinary Taiwan
people. But in fact, the only effective weapons are the 60
Blackhawk helicopters, the C4ISR systems and the PAC-3 missiles.
Washington was also ingenious in its timing. The generous gift [of
the arms sales] was announced when Ma Ying-jeou's plane was still in
U.S. airspace after he concluded his trip to the inauguration
ceremony of the president of Honduras -- perfect timing. ...

"The United States had secretly discussed with mainland China the
arms sales package this time. U.S. National Security Advisor
General James Jones said Washington had 'transparent consultations'
with mainland China about arms sales to Taiwan, and the 'contents
that will be announced or not announced will not surprise China.'
It is thus obvious that the 'solemn protests' raised by Beijing were
just tricks to be shown to the ordinary people in China. The
parties that offer things, including both Washington and Beijing,
have substantive gains and look good, while the party which receives
must still make a show of shedding tears of gratitude. ..."

F) Problems Remain to Be Solved in Terms of
Washington-Beijing-Taipei Relations in the Wake of the [U.S.] Arms
Sales [to Taiwan]"

The KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 120,000] editorialized

"... It appears that U.S.-China relations have seen unprecedentedly
good prospects since President Obama's visit to Beijing at the end
of last year. But the [U.S.] arms sales [to Taiwan] seemed to give
the relations a sudden turn. The first question [we] want to ask
is: Why did the United States want to sell [weapons to Taiwan]?
The seemingly dignified answer is of course: Washington must
maintain its commitment to Taiwan's security. But in reality, [the
answer is that] the United States hopes to continue maintaining its
influence in Taiwan. Washington maintaining its influence [in
Taiwan] can be both good and bad for Beijing. The downside is that
the development of cross-Strait relations can never get rid of the
'international factors.' When Obama was in Beijing in November,
2009, China originally thought that [both sides] had established the
fundamental principles and that Washington would respect China's
sovereignty and core interests. Now it seems to be a different
story. Since Washington has sold Taiwan weapons, it is certain that
Obama will meet with the Dalai Lama.

"But judging from Beijing's perspective, there are merits in terms
of the U.S. influence on Taiwan. During the governance of the Chen
Shui-bian administration, it was the United States which had
restrained [Chen] and pulled him back before the cross-Strait
situation went out of control. It is also a widely known fact that
Beijing is concerned about the direction of cross-Strait relations
in the post-Ma era, and it is likely that it still needs the United
States to stabilize the situation. ...

"In the face of the rising China, the first point of clash lies in
the Taiwan Strait. Even though Washington does not want to see
itself being dragged into the conflicts in the Taiwan Strait, it
still cannot let go. Judging from its own strategic interests,
Washington also does not hope to see Taiwan being Finlandized
gradually and thus lose its capability and self-initiative to defend
itself, or being integrated into the sphere of influence of China.
In light of this, selling weapons to Taiwan will help to pull tight
its security link with the Taiwan government. ..."

G) "Billions Later, Is Taiwan Any Safer?"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (2/2):

"Though welcome, the US$6.4 billion US arms sale to Taiwan announced
by Washington on Friday will not bring much in terms of Taiwan's
ability to defend itself. All the items in the package, with the
exception of the 60 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, had been approved
-- and then delayed -- by former US president George W. Bush's
administration. In other words, since large parts of the package
were first announced in 2001, Taiwan's military has been treading
water, while China has sprinted ahead with the modernization of its
military. None of the items in the package will make a substantial
difference. While the PAC-3 missile defense system can bolster the
defense of certain key targets, it is not sufficient to deter an
attack, especially as the sale is likely to result in a decision by
the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to add short and medium-range
missiles to the 1,500 it already aims at Taiwan and step up its
missile program.

"What is needed most, and what the US appears unlikely to provide
anytime soon, is newer fighter aircraft like F-16C/Ds. With every
day that passes, Taiwan's aging fleet lags further behind the PLA
air force, which is developing 4.5 and fifth-generation aircraft
that are far superior. As Taiwan's air force retires some of its
Mirage and F-5s, among others, the balance of air power will only
widen, both in quantitative and qualitative terms. Nothing
underscores the lack of punch in the arms release more than the fact
that the 10 RTM-84L Harpoon missiles and two ATM-84L Harpoon
missiles included in the package, which cost US$37 million, are for
training purposes only. They are simply unarmed variants of the real
thing -- RGM/AGM-84As. At best, the arms sale was an expression of
US commitment to the defense of Taiwan, as per the Taiwan Relations
Act (TRA). In terms of symbolic value, the move is welcome. But it
comes short of providing the types of weapon that are necessary to
ensure Taiwan's ability to defend itself in line with the amplitude
of the Chinese threat -- as stipulated in the TRA. It also comes in
the wake of another announcement by Washington that it had
downgraded China as an intelligence priority. ...

"In the past, when China rattled its saber over US arms sales to
Taiwan, it did so over weaponry that made a significant difference
in the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait. Now, however, after
years of dithering in Washington, Beijing has become confident
enough that it can throw a fit -- and make Washington pause -- over
practically inconsequential weapons sales. This substantiates fears
by some Washington sources that this could be the first and last
arms sale to Taiwan under US President Barack Obama's
administration. ... If China can brew such a storm over what is an
arms sale that was meant to please all sides and minimize the damage
to Sino-US relations, then the chances of Taiwan getting the weapons
it really needs look alarmingly slim."


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