Cablegate: Taiwan Public Opinion with Regard to U.S.

Published: Fri 23 Sep 2005 01:25 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
230125Z Sep 05
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Summary: U.S. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense
Richard Lawless' speech at the 2005 U.S.-Taiwan Defense
Industry Conference Monday, which was delivered by U.S.
Defense Security Cooperation Agency's Security
Cooperation Operations Principal Director Edward Ross,
has sparked considerable discussion in various media
venues. While Taiwan's pending arms procurement bill
has been a standard topic for some time on the pages of
the major Taipei dailies, Taiwan Internet forums and
television talk shows, the statements in the Lawless
speech aroused fresh attention, especially in
2. The pro-independence "Liberty Times," Taiwan's
biggest daily, ran a banner headline on its front page
September 21 that read: "U.S. Official Warns That the
United States Has No Obligation to Defend Taiwan." All
the other Chinese-language newspapers carried news
stories in their inside page on the Lawless speech,
Taiwan legislators' reactions to statements, and the
pan-Blue alliance's blocking of the passage of the U.S.
arms procurement bill in the Legislative Yuan for the
29th time.
3. Major Chinese-language Taipei dailies September 22
carried news stories on Taiwan Ministry of National
Defense's (MND) responses, as well as the reactions of
more Taiwan legislators, to the Lawless speech. MND
General Political Warfare Bureau Director Hu Chen-pu
was quoted as saying Wednesday that U.S. officials had
told him during his 2004 U.S. visit that the United
States has no obligation to defend Taiwan. Hu also
said the Taiwan military has always fought alone; it
would be good if the United States could come to help,
Hu said, but MND strategies have never included a plan
involving the United States. The centrist "China
Times" reported on Hu's statement on its page four
under the headline: "In Response to U.S. Official's
`Harsh Remarks,' Military: [We] Have Never Expected
That the United States Would Help Defend Taiwan." The
pro-unification "United Daily News," however, quoted
Taiwan Vice Defense Minister Huo Shou-yeh as saying
that the Pentagon was merely concerned about Taiwan's
national security as a friend. Almost all the Taipei
dailies carried Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-
pyng's remarks that the People First Party (PFP) holds
the critical seats and a tough position regarding U.S.
arms procurements in the Legislative Yuan, and that the
PFP therefore has become the key to the arms deal.
4. Both the pro-unification "United Daily News" and
centrist "China Times" ran news stories on the pan-Blue
legislators' reactions to the Lawless speech. PFP
Legislator Lin Yu-fang said the U.S. criticism is
interference in Taiwan's domestic affairs and the
United States is not qualified to criticize Taiwan's
resolution to defend itself; Lin pointed out that
Taiwan has bought NT$660 billion of U.S. arms from 1996
to 2000, and has thus become the second biggest
overseas buyer of U.S. arms. KMT Legislator Su Chi
said U.S. arms procurements are an issue that involves
politics and finance, adding that Washington might not
be aware of Taiwan's declining financial situation. Su
also said pushing the tough statement of the United
States is "like pouring oil on a fire."
5. The pro-independence "Liberty Times," on the other
hand, carried comments by former Cabinet Secretary-
General Liu Hsih-fang (pro-Green) that maintain that
Taiwan's political parties should consider U.S. arms
procurements from the perspective of the island's
national interests, instead of from the interests of
political parties. The newspaper also ran a news story
that was topped with the headline: "[Former Deputy
Assistant Secretary for East-Asian and Pacific Affairs]
Randy Schriver: Cross-Strait Security Will Be More
Difficult If the [U.S.] Arms Procurement Bill Fails to
6. In terms of editorials and commentaries, editorials
in the pro-independence "Liberty Times," "Taiwan Daily"
and English-language "Taipei Times" all criticized the
pan-Blue camp for disregarding Taiwan's national
security and blocking the U.S. arms procurement bill
under the pretense of upholding public opinion. They
also warned Taiwan to pay attention to Washington's
change in both mentality and policy with regard to
defending Taiwan. A "Liberty Times" editorial said:
"The candid remarks by American officials, without
doubt, have articulated an embarrassing fact that some
pan-Blue politicians in Taiwan hold the United States
to a promise that, given its moral responsibility,
Washington will surely not give up on Taiwan. They are
thus waiting fearlessly for the United States to defend
Taiwan." A "Taipei Times" editorial concluded by
saying: "It is time for all the people of Taiwan to
reach a consensus on national security and show the US
that Taiwan is not coward, nor a baby that knows only
how to cry for help but refuses to help itself."
7. "United Daily News" Washington correspondent Vincent
Chang wrote in an opinion piece that it is embarrassing
that the United States must "teach" Taiwan how to value
its security. Chang urged both the ruling party and
the opposition parties in Taiwan to actually and
substantially do something to deal with U.S. arms
procurements matter. A famous Taiwan lawyer/law
professor, Chen Charng-ven, said in a separate opinion
piece in the "United Daily News" that Taiwan should
continue to oppose U.S. arms procurements. Chen,
however, also said the United States has no obligation
to defend Taiwan if Taiwan is attacked by China since
there is no defense pact between Taiwan and the United
States. Chen said the United States needs China to play
an important role regarding the North Korean nuclear
issue, and added chances are slim that the United
States would resort to using arms against China.
8. A review of ten Taiwan Internet forums that cover
the political spectrum September 22 shows that the arms
procurement topic is among the "top five" in terms of
generating discussion, with the Lawless speech arousing
particular attention. The speech, however, does not
appear to have made those individuals who oppose the
U.S. arms procurements to change their positions. In
addition, those individuals who have been using the
forums to criticize the pan-Blue blocking of the bill
continued to do so, and encouraged the United States to
exert more pressure on "pro-Chinese political figures
in Taiwan." Overall, there were more postings on the
ten forums against the proposed arms procurements than
there were in favor of the purchases. One unusual
opinion voiced on a Yahoo! Taiwan BBS devoted to
military and weapon issues said the U.S. concern over
the arms procurements was linked to a fear of better
cross-Strait relations: "It is obvious that many
stupid people believe that the sale of out-dated
weapons by the Americans to us at high prices is to
help Taiwan. Don't be so silly. ... What they want is
the strategic position of the oceanic trench, the
Taiwan Strait, without any care for the life and death
of the Taiwan people. ... The United States is nervous
that the military procurement [budget] cannot be
approved because the Americans are afraid too much that
Taiwan will cooperate with China." This last forum does
not have a clear pan-Blue or pan-Green affiliation.
9. Out of the 8 most popular daily talk shows in Taipei
-- 4 pro-Green and 4 pro-Blue -- only one revisited the
issue after the Lawless speech was delivered by Ross in
San Diego. The pro-Blue talk show, Two Ladies on the
Front Line (ONTV), covered the arms procurement bill
the night of September 22. The synopsis for this
particular show (as posted on the station's website)
does not mention the U.S. official's statements, but
reads: "The U.S. arms procurement bill was rejected in
the Legislative Yuan's Procedure Committee for the 29th
time. [Taiwan Premier] Frank Hsieh says, 'I feel
powerless.'" The discussions on the other talk shows
that night focused on recent domestic political rows
and cross-Strait relations.
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