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

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #0155/01 0400930
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 090930Z FEB 10
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3307
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9693
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 1078

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000155

SIPDIS

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. ARMS SALES TO TAIWAN

Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused February 9
news coverage on developments in cross-Strait relations, on the
year-end five city and county magistrates' elections; and on the
legal cases involving former President Chen Shui-bian and his
family. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a column in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" discussed U.S. arms sales to Taiwan
and said "the Obama administration's decision symbolized that
Washington does not want to submit itself to China's intimidation
and that it has adhered to its obligations and commitments pledged
under the Taiwan Relations Act." An editorial in the
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" said Beijing is
now facing a dilemma of "wanting to punish" both the Boeing Company
and Airbus "over sales to Taiwan, but is unable to do so." A
"Taipei Times" op-ed by John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the
UN, criticized the Obama administration's China policy for being
"reckless." A separate "Taipei Times" op-ed, written by former AIT
chairman Nat Bellocchi, said the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan was "the
right move at the right time." End summary.

A) "Why Does China Get Hysterical?"

Media commentator James Wang wrote in a column in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 680,000] (2/9):

"... Arms sales are a government to government issue, and the reason
behind China's protests was that Taiwan is a part of China. Yet
instead of 'ordering' Taiwan not to buy [those weapons], Beijing
only asked the United States not to sell arms [to Taiwan], pledging
also to boycott the [U.S.] private companies manufacturing the
relevant weapons. The move only inconsistently and ridiculously
highlighted the fact that Taiwan is not a part of China. ...

"Given his shortsightedness, Ma Ying-jeou knows nothing but power,
position and fierce struggling, and he resisted [Taiwan's] arms
procurements when he was out of office. Now he said he was pleased
with the second-rate arms sales package approved by the Obama
administration, believing it would help to build Taiwan's confidence
when seeking to improve relations with mainland China. This was
just nonsense. China has been threatening the United States all the
time -- a move aimed at cutting down [U.S. arms sales to Taiwan],
and it has at least achieved the goal of stopping Washington from
selling F-16 C/D fighter jets and submarines [to the island].

"The Obama administration's decision symbolized that the United
States does not want to submit itself to China's intimidation and
that it has adhered to its obligations and commitments pledged under
the Taiwan Relations Act. But the weapons [Washington] decided to
sell are limited only to items necessary for Taiwan's defense in its
offshore waters and within its borders, thus further curtailing the
island's strategic options for self defense. The Ma administration
has failed to buy the priority arms items Taiwan needs to buy; what
it gets is nothing but the second-rate products that Washington has
long promised to sell but used to be boycotted by the KMT. This is
the failure of the Ma administration; Ma and the KMT legislators
were derelict in their duties and treated [our] national security as
insignificant. Indeed they have let the Taiwan people down."


B) "Beijing's 'Anger' Collides with Reality"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (2/9):

"Boeing executives last week seemed worried that a US arms sale to
Taiwan -- and Beijing's subsequent threat of sanctions against
manufacturers involved in the deal -- would cost it billions of
dollars in commercial aircraft sales. Even worse, if China followed
through with its threat to deny the US aviation giant access to its
lucrative market, it could quickly translate into a windfall for
Boeing's main competitor, Airbus. Then Eurocopter, a European
company, announced it was selling Taiwan three EC225 helicopters --
the latest model in the Super Puma family -- for US$111 million,
with an option for 17 more. ...

"Now, the copter sale is relatively small compared with the US$6.4
billion package proposed by Washington, but symbolically its impact
could be just as important, given that it is the first military sale
from a European company to Taiwan in almost two decades -- an
indirect embargo that has lasted almost as long as Europe's embargo
on arms sales to Beijing imposed after the Tiananmen Square Massacre
in 1989. In retaliation, and given Beijing's propensity for lashing
out at anyone who dares treat Taiwan as a sovereign country, one
would expect that threats of sanctions against Eurocopter and its
parent, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co (EADS), would
soon follow. But here's the catch -- EADS also happens to own
Airbus. And one thing is certain: If China is to meet its civilian
aviation needs in the next decade, it will have little choice but to
purchase its aircraft from either Boeing or Airbus. No other
aircraft manufacturer has the means and economy of scale to produce
the types and quantities of aircraft that China will need. China, a
relative newcomer in the production of civilian aircraft, is years,
if not decades, away from developing the domestic capabilities to
produce aircraft in large quantities.

"Beijing, therefore, finds itself in a bind, wanting to punish the
two giants over sales to Taiwan, but unable to do so. This could
explain why it has yet to made any public expression of anger at
Eurocopter (another reason might be that Beijing hopes Europe will
soon lift its arms embargo). ... What Boeing and Airbus could soon
show us, however, is that when a concerted effort is made by the
giants of this world, and when Beijing is denied the opportunity to
play one against the other, it is possible to act according to our
moral -- and even economic -- predispositions without first having
to consult Chinese emperor Hu Jintao and his court. In fact, it is
even possible to do so and to survive to tell the story. What is
Beijing going to do -- not buy aircraft? Maybe, for once, its rulers
will just shut up and let the world be."

C) "Obama's China Policy Is Reckless"

John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the UN and now a senior
fellow at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, opined
in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times"
[circulation: 30,000] (2/9):

"US President Barack Obama's disinterest and inexperience in foreign
and national security affairs are nowhere more evident than in his
China policy. ... Pursuing competing or inconsistent priorities is
hardly new or unusual for the US, given our global commitments and
obligations, which make it nearly impossible to pursue any single
priority to the exclusion of others. However, Obama's China policy
is different -- and potentially deleterious for the US -- because it
unfolds in almost random fashion. It is little wonder that Chinese
leaders now question not only the US' grip on its own economy, but
its grip on international politics as well. ...

"The secret of what's wrong with his foreign policy is what's wrong
with his domestic policies. ... Not only are Obama's domestic
priorities driving him in the wrong direction with China, perhaps
even worse, he seeks the wrong answers from China even on national
security issues. US policy on Iran's and North Korea's
nuclear-weapons programs highlights this anomaly. Both former US
president George W. Bush's and the Obama administrations have
allowed China to escape responsibility for stopping Pyongyang's
nuclear program, something it has the unique capacity to do, given
the North's reliance on China for energy, food and other critical
resources. ... Many people blame China for pursuing its national
interests, but Beijing is just doing what comes naturally. The real
question is why the US is not doing the same."

D) "Arms Sales: the Right Move at the Right Time"

Nat Bellocchi, former AIT chairman and now a special adviser to the
Liberty Times Group, opined in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation: 30,000] (2/9):

"The decision by the administration of US President Barack Obama to
approve the sale of an additional package of arms to Taiwan comes
just in the nick of time. It does show a realization on the part of
the US administration that Taiwan should not be left to fend for
itself, but needs both support and encouragement from the US. ...
The arms sale has changed that: It is a signal that the US will
stand by its commitments under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act and may
help defend Taiwan. Having said that, we may want to ask if the
signal is strong enough? This depends on how much further the Obama
administration is willing to go. Will it keep the door open to
further packages such as the 66 F-16C/D jet fighters requested by
Taipei in 2006 or the submarines that have been under discussion
since at least 2001? And there might be other items required to
redress the increasing imbalance in air and naval power across the
Taiwan Strait. In particular, is there anything that has truly
addressed the imbalance of missiles across the Strait? It is
essential that the US works with Taiwan on these issues. ...

"These developments are prompting a fundamental reassessment among
Western governments and companies on the nature of engagement with
China. The assumption behind US and European policy toward China
until now has been that economic opening would lead to political
liberalization. This basic premise seems increasingly less tenable:
What we see is the rise of China -- both economically and
politically -- accompanied with increasing authoritarianism at home
and a willingness to throw its weight around in support of unsavory
regimes and causes. ... Against this background, it is also
essential that Taiwan clearly shows it wants to remain a free and
democratic nation and wants to strengthen its ties with the
democratic West instead of moving into the sphere of influence of an
undemocratic and repressive China. All too often, economic and
business interests push a government in the direction of narrow and
short-term gains. Taiwan's government needs to keep a longer-term
vision of a free and democratic Taiwan in mind.

"It also needs to be emphasized that peace and stability in the
Strait can only be achieved if Taiwan maintains strong political,
economic and social ties with the many democratic countries,
especially its neighbors, and keeps a healthy distance from China.
The new arms sale by the Obama administration is a good beginning to
help make this possible."

STANTON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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