Cablegate: Media Reaction: Dprk Nuclear Test, Taiwan's "Second

Published: Mon 23 Oct 2006 10:03 AM
DE RUEHIN #3614/01 2961003
R 231003Z OCT 06
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1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused their
coverage October 21-23 on the year-end Taipei and Kaohsiung mayoral
races; on the split between the KMT and the People First Party (PFP)
leadership over December's Taipei mayoral election; on the follow-on
movements of the "Oust Bian" campaign; and on the difficulties that
lie ahead for Taiwan following the suspension of the WTO's Doha
round of trade negotiations.
With regard to the U.S. arms procurements bill, the pro-independence
"Liberty Times," Taiwan's largest-circulation daily, ran a banner
headline on page two October 21 that read "Orange [i.e. PFP] Refuses
to Sign on Negotiation [Results]; Trouble Arises for [U.S.] Arms
Procurement Bill to Be Reviewed by Procedural Committee." In
addition, several papers reported October 22 on a letter by former
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to the Taiwan
authorities recently, asking Taiwan to open the bidding for the P-3C
antisubmarine aircraft procurement to other U.S. suppliers, rather
than designating Lockheed as the only source. The pro-status quo
"China Times" also ran a banner headline on page five on October 23
that read "Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Lobbying for Arms
Dealer; Armitage Exposes Inside Stories of State Department; Bian
Finds [the Information] Very Useful."
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a "China Times"
editorial said that, given China's mediation, which has
successfully resolved the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula,
the world has again witnessed how Washington and Beijing have worked
together in maintaining the status quo in East Asia. An editorial
in the limited-circulation, conservative, pro-unification,
English-language "China Post" also commented on North Korea's recent
nuclear test, saying "the danger of a potential regional nuclear
race cannot be ruled out." In addition, Koo Kuan-min, former senior
advisor to President Chen, discussed the idea of a "Second Republic
constitution" in a weekly column in the "Liberty Times." Koo called
on the Taiwan people to demonstrate a strong collective will to pass
a popular vote on Taiwan's new constitution, in an attempt to make
the United States understand and accept this new reality in Taiwan's
democracy. End summary.
3. DPRK Nuclear Test
A) "North Korea's Nuclear Crisis Is Resolved, But Disputes Still
The pro-status quo "China Times" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (10/23):
"Given the mediation of Chinese special envoys, Pyongyang finally
promised that it would not perform a second nuclear test. This
development is akin to having removed a major part of the fuse of
the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula. Judging from the
atmosphere of the press conference jointly hosted by U.S. Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice and Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing,
it seemed that the United States and China have again worked
together and concluded a 'crisis management' over North Korea's
nuclear crisis, except that none of the core disputes has been
resolved, and their best achievement was merely to stop the
situation from further deteriorating. This kind of deadlock will
persist for a certain period of time. Even though Taiwan may be a
mere observer in this crisis, it has nonetheless again witnessed how
Washington and Beijing have worked together to manage all the
disputes in the region.
"Without a doubt, North Korea is a genuine 'troublemaker' in East
Asia. It has no intention of integrating itself into the
international community, nor has it shown any interest in
participating in any dialogue in the region. Neither does it want
to be restricted by any rules of the game. ... Pyongyang has
several strategies, and none of its neighboring countries can find a
way to deal with them: The first strategy is that Pyongyang always
picks and toys with the biggest and most sensitive bargaining chip
it has. Nuclear tests and ballistic missiles tests are both
explosive means, and every time Pyongyang plays with these means, it
is sure to make the headlines of global media. ... The second
strategy is Pyongyang's 'unpredictability'; to put it in plain
language, it means one will never guess what it plans to do next.
Pyongyang may promise that it will no longer perform any nuclear
tests one day, and perhaps after a few days, it will [express]
regret and get ready for talks. It will appear to be willing to
talk this moment, and the next moment it might refuse to go to the
negotiation table. You'll never guess what surprising move it will
take the next moment. Pyongyang's third strategy is that
intimidation on North Korea will never work. To put it in plain
language, it means 'You wouldn't dare hit me.' The United States
attacked Iraq once it said it intended to, but it never dares to
behave the same way toward North Korea. ...
"Many international observers agree that Beijing is the biggest
loser in the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula this time,
because the international community expects China to wield its
influence to force Pyongyang to return to the negotiation table.
But the games Pyongyang was playing got bigger and bigger,
indicating that Beijing's influence over Pyongyang has greatly
declined. ... Such a judgment may seem accurate, but it is useless
as a conclusion, because it was after all Tang Jiaxuan's visit to
and negotiation with Pyongyang personally that has resulted in Kim
Jong-Il's promise that there would not be a second nuclear test. In
other words, in the end, the window that can force Pyongyang to
submit has to be opened from Beijing's side.
"For Taiwan, the conclusion of the nuclear crisis on the Korean
Peninsula has made it witness again how Washington and Beijing have
worked together in maintaining the status quo in East Asia. Even
though the United States and China have differences with regard to
their separate positions in resolving disputes in the region, their
positions regarding 'maintaining the status quo' have come closer.
Pyongyang attempted to alter the status quo, but the move has
consequently drawn Beijing and Washington closer to each other, and
the rein that has been put on Pyongyang's neck has been gathered up
more tightly. It follows that Taiwan will likely achieve nothing
should it attempt to change the 'status quo' jointly maintained by
the United States and China."
B) "Beijing's North Korean Dilemma"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (10/21):
"Beijing has been in an unenviable situation since Pyongyang's
nuclear test on Oct. 9. Mainland China, which is North Korea's only
ally as well as its major provider of economic aid, was given only a
20 minute advance warning prior to the underground test. It's an
embarrassment, if not humiliation, for Chinese president Hu Jintao
who is clearly at a loss about how to deal with this 'ally' for whom
hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops had died in the 1950-53
Korea War. To punish or not to punish the Hermit Kingdom and its
Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il is a dilemma for Beijing. All the major
powers, especially the United States, are waiting to see what kind
of action Beijing will take to resolve the North Korean nuclear
crisis, as Beijing is the only country which wields influence over
Pyongyang. ...
"Now it's water under the bridge. Willy-nilly, the world will live
with the unpleasant fact that Pyongyang is the ninth member of the
nuclear club. It is interesting to watch who will follow suit, now
that the door has been blasted open by Pyongyang. It is evident
that Iran, another member of the axis of evil, is on the threshold
despite threats from Washington. A nuclear Korean peninsula is
ominous because South Korea and Japan are under the direct threat of
Pyongyang's weapons of mass destruction. Mainland China will be
particularly uneasy with the bomb in its backyard. Who believes
that Kim's bomb is aimed only at the United States? The danger of a
potential regional nuclear race cannot be ruled out."
4. Taiwan's "Second Republic Constitution"
"The Conception and Implementation of a 'Second Republic
Koo Kuan-min, former Senior Adviser to the President, noted in the
"Weekly Comment" in the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
[circulation: 600,000] (10/22):
"... We all know that the two most important objectives for Taiwan
to become a normal country are the rectification of its name and the
writing a new constitution. However, there are two major obstacles
that are hindering Taiwan from becoming a normal country, namely,
the United States and China. As we are pushing the democratic
engineering of a new constitution right now, we have clearly felt
the pressure from the United States. ...
"Only by obtaining a clear understanding of U.S. policy principles
can we pursue our national interests pragmatically. Three months
ago, I raised the idea of 'freezing the Republic of China
Constitution and instituting a second constitution' to the U.S. side
for the first time. This idea mainly stemmed from the 'freezing' of
the National Unification Council. ... But the United States still
has strong doubts about Taiwan's plan to write a new constitution,
primarily because it would be akin to substantive 'Taiwan
independence' should the declaration of 'sovereignty' be written
into the new constitution. Such a move will contradict the three
major principles of the U.S. cross-Strait policy. ...
"In addition to elaborating on the idea of 'freezing [the ROC
Constitution],' I also told the United States that if they continue
to pressure Taiwan not to push certain pragmatic plans to turn
Taiwan into a normal country, and if they cannot give the Taiwan
people hopes and dreams for the future, the Taiwan people will
really give up hope someday and turn their support to Ma Ying-jeou
and the KMT who advocate 'ultimate unification' [with China]. [I
asked them] if this is what they are happy to see, Taiwan annexed by
China and becoming part of China? Will this meet the United States'
national interests in the Western Pacific? The United States was
able to understand my elaboration and even asked me 'Have people in
your country discussed your idea of a second constitution?'
"The United States is a democratic country, and Americans are
clearly aware of the importance of public opinion; they are gravely
concerned about the process of pushing for a new constitution. The
Taiwan people, therefore, must demonstrate a strong collective will
and pass the 'new constitution' via a popular vote. I believe that
the United States will consequently accept this new reality about
Taiwan's democracy, because this is the true meaning of democracy -
namely, democratic rights for the people. ..."
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