Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations
DE RUEHIN #0130/01 0340954
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 030954Z FEB 10
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3259
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9681
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 1066
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000130
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
February 3 news coverage on an article written by James Kraska on a
scenario in which the United States lost a naval war to China in
2015; on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan; and on the Taipei City
government's plan to increase the property tax on luxury apartments
starting next year.
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an op-ed in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" discussed U.S. arms sales to Taiwan
and Sino-U.S. relations. The article said whichever side backs off
from the confrontation will be the paper tiger. An editorial in the
KMT-leaning "China Times," on the other hand, said that only when
Taiwan-U.S. relations are stable can cross-Strait relations be
stabilized. A separate "China Times" column discussed the U.S.
military's recent test of its missile interception capability. The
article concluded by saying the United States wants to be the number
one in the world, and it has to contain China after all. An
editorial in the pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News"
discussed U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and said President Ma
Ying-jeou's tacit acceptance of Beijing's "one China" principle may
have discouraged Washington from providing more sophisticated
weaponry to Taiwan. End summary.
A) "Which Is a Paper Tiger, Beijing or Washington?"
Columnist Paul Lin wrote in the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
[circulation: 680,000] (2/3):
"New changes have emerged recently in Sino-U.S. relations.
Following his submissive visit to Beijing last November, U.S.
President Barack Obama was humiliated by [Chinese Premier Wen
Jiabao] at the Copenhagen summit. Washington was thus forced to
'toughen up,' using Google's case as a turning point. Since Ma
Ying-jeou's transits through the United States and Washington's
announcement of arms sales to Taiwan both involve the 'core
interests' recently asserted by China, tension has thus risen
between China and the United States.
"Washington offered a new level of treatment to Ma primarily and
evidently because it was worried that Ma's incompetence and
isolation will hasten his pace to surrender [Taiwan] to China.
That's why it wanted to support him. If China did not protest
against it, such a reception model would also be applicable to the
future presidents of Taiwan. If China protests, then the Taiwan
people will understand that no matter how Ma has tried to curry
favor with China, they should not expect Beijing to respect Taiwan.
As for the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, [Washington] was just
fulfilling a request proposed by the previous DPP administration,
which was turned down by the KMT then. Besides, the [arms sales
package] was a result of various cuts, and it had been notified to
or negotiated with China in advance -- also a [failure to implement
fully] the 'Taiwan Relations Act.' ...
"When Beijing and Washington confront each other, whichever side
backs off is the paper tiger. The United States normally does not
'pursue and attack enemy forces with the advantage of a recent
victory;' China, on the other hand, given its traits of hooliganism,
will certainly push its luck. One can tell from Sino-U.S. relations
over the past few decades that Washington has been making all kinds
of concessions, while Beijing has lately upgraded Taiwan to become
its 'core interest,' which will likely expand to include other
[matters] under the United States' sphere of influence. Why doesn't
the United States also call upon the ideals upon which its nation
was built, such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and rule of
law, its core interests? The United States was even willing to
protect the KMT dictatorship; now that Taiwan is a democratic
country, how will the United States look upon itself if the island
were sold out to China?..."
B) "Only When Taiwan-U.S. Relations Are Stable Can Cross-Strait
Relations Be Stabilized"
The KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 120,000] editorialized
"Even though the U.S. government's announcement of a US$6.4 billion
worth arms sales package to Taiwan proved that Taiwan-U.S. relations
remain consistently stable, a certain warning signal has surfaced.
Such a costly arms sales package has unexpectedly excluded weapons
of active defensive capabilities such as the conventional submarines
and F-16 C/D fighter jets, so it was far inferior to our
expectations. Frankly speaking, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan have
shown a trend of 'weakening,' and the Ma administration must thus
address it prudently, because without a stable Taiwan-U.S.
relationship, there will not be stable cross-Strait relations. ...
"Arms sales are a key indicator to stable Taiwan-U.S. relations.
The arms sales package this time accounts for 69 percent of Taiwan's
national defense budget for this fiscal year; the figure may sound
shockingly high, but the weapons are all long-pending ones, and
there is nothing new in the package. Normally, Washington is able
to approve such an arms sales package quickly, but this time it was
put off for more than six months -- an unprecedented sign in the
history of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. Thus it appears to reveal a
certain warning signal. People started to feel concerned whether
this will be the last and biggest [U.S.] arms sale [to Taiwan]. One
indeed cannot rule out such concerns. It is not long since U.S.
President Barack Obama took over the helm. Even though his
strategists in Asian-Pacific affairs are familiar with cross-Strait
issues and have a certain understanding of Taiwan's situation, his
core staff may not necessarily share the same understanding, in
particular, the perception of China. It appears that the
strategists close to Obama have other plans, which will possibly
create new variables for the future of Taiwan-U.S. relations.
"According to the provisions in the 'Taiwan Relations Act (TRA),'
the U.S. Congress does not 'enjoin' the executive branch to sell
weapons to Taiwan. Strictly speaking, it is not binding for
Washington to agree to sell defensive weapons to Taiwan. The real
strength behind the United States' willingness to provide defensive
weapons to Taiwan does not lie in the law itself but in its sold
political commitment to Taiwan's freedom. Even though there are
clauses in the TRA related to [Taiwan's] security, Washington's
political commitment remains essential to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
The subtlety of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan lies in such
indescribable 'political commitment,' and its efficacy depends not
only on whether Taiwan and the United States share the same
strategic interests but also on the rise of China. The previous
U.S. administrations have all tried their utmost to keep the balance
[between the two directions], but if the Obama administration
regards the latter more important than the former, the Ma
administration will have to watch out. This has nothing to do with
whether the United States will sell out Taiwan; it is simply a
consequence caused by the development of the international
"We can totally understand why Beijing is opposed to U.S. arms sales
to Taiwan. On the political level, arms sales involve the relations
between the United States, China and Taiwan. Though its nature
differs from the status of cross-Strait relations, it certainly
falls under the category of 'shelving the controversies.' Since it
is certain that the arms sales issue will not be resolved in the
short term, why not put it aside. Beijing's doing the utmost it can
to seek to smother U.S. arms sales to Taiwan not only will not
contribute to reconciliation across the Taiwan Strait but will also
amplify Taiwan's sense of crisis. ... U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are
the touchstone of the stability of Taiwan-U.S. relations. With
cross-Strait relations improving, the arms sales can be adjusted
according to Taiwan's defense needs and military transformation, but
by no means can they be terminated because of [China's] threats.
C) "Obama Is a Realist plus Opportunist"
The "International Lookout" column in the KMT-leaning "China Times"
[circulation: 120,000] wrote (2/3):
"The U.S. military tested the 'ground-based mid-course missile
interception' [defense system] over the Pacific Ocean on January 31,
but [the test] failed. It is said they are still trying to figure
out the reasons for the failure. Just twenty days ago, China
successfully tested its mid-course interception capability. ... The
United States has started earlier than China in building its
anti-ballistic missile system, whose scale is also bigger than that
of China's. Washington also put the core of its anti-missile
deployment in the Asia-Pacific. ... Judging from its entire set-up,
it is quite obvious that the target of [the United States'
anti-missile network' is China.
"It goes without saying that [building] such an anti-missile network
against China is not an easy task. ... But from such a move one can
tell the relationship between the United States and China.
Washington still wants to contain the rise of China after all. Just
as when President Obama said in his State of the Union address, the
United States is absolutely the number one. ... On China's part,
Beijing probably has no ambition to become the number one. But
Washington still feels ill at ease. It may be right when someone
says that Obama upholds the 'offensive realism.'"
D) "Ma's Policies Deepen Taiwan's Predicament"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (2/3):
"... However, the procurement package does not include systems
Taiwan urgently needs to balance the PRC's rapidly expanding and
upgrading military prowess, notably advanced F-16 C/D Block jet
fighters, AEGIS frigates or conventional submarines. Ironically,
Washington's selection of defensive weapon systems may have been
influenced by Ma's change of Taiwan's strategic concepts from
preparing for 'decisive battle outside of the territory' forward
defense based on local air and naval superiority to 'determined
defense and effective deterrence,' which envisions an army-based
defense on Taiwan's soil. Combined with Ma's tacit acceptance of
Beijing's 'one China principle,' the latter concept indicates to
international society that the KMT government believes Taiwan's
eventual annexation by a 'rising China' is inevitable and may have
discouraged Washington from providing more sophisticated weaponry.
Moreover, Beijing's overreaction to Obama's decision, including the
rupture of Sino-American military exchanges and threats to impose
sanctions on U.S. companies, may very well be calculated to draw a
red line to block Washington from selling F-16 C/D jets, AEGIS
frigates or conventional submarines to Taiwan in the future. ...
"The pursuit of normalized relations with China cannot be twisted
into a justification to surrender Taiwan's hard-won democracy and
prosperity. Instead, Ma should remind the world community that
Taiwan is part of the global democratic alliance against any
authoritarian state, is resolved to seek peace with, and not at the
expense of, democracy and dignity, and intensify efforts to persuade
Washington and other capitals that Taiwan is committed to defending
our democratic way of life and needs advanced self-defense
capability to dissuade the PRC from any adventurism."