Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-Taiwan Arms Deals

Published: Mon 21 Jul 2008 01:51 PM
DE RUEHIN #1066/01 2031351
R 211351Z JUL 08
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused their
July 19-21 news coverage on the flash floods and landslides
triggered by Tropical Storm Kalmaegi in central and southern Taiwan
last Friday and the agricultural losses Taiwan has suffered; on
President Ma Ying-jeou's sliding approval rating; on the Rim of the
Pacific (RIMPAC) joint military exercise; and on the results of this
year's university entrance examination. Almost all papers reported
the remarks by State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack last Friday
that the U.S.' policy on arms sales to Taiwan remains unchanged.
2. The Chinese-language papers gave extensive editorial coverage to
the current state of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan over the weekend. An
editorial in the pro-independence "Liberty Times" criticized
President Ma Ying-jeou's cross-Strait and defense policy for
creating worries the United States and compromising Taiwan's
national security. An editorial in the mass-circulation "Apple
Daily" speculated that the alleged freeze of the U.S.-Taiwan arms
sales resulted from the United States' change of strategic thinking
recently regarding cross-Strait relations. An editorial in the
centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" discussed the subtle connection
between U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and improved cross-Strait
relations. The article said the Ma Administration will certainly
not be happy to see the originally close military exchanges between
Taiwan and the United States be weakened by improved cross-Strait
ties. An editorial in the pro-unification "United Daily News" said
that now may be the perfect opportunity for both Washington and
Taipei to discuss and ponder "reasonable" arms sales. A separate
"China Times" op-ed piece said the Bush Administration's alleged
suspension of arms sales to Taiwan not only poses a great challenge
to the Ma Administration, but also had a negative impact on
restoring mutual trust between Taipei and Washington. An editorial
in the pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" urged the Ma
Administration to show Taiwan's determination to defend itself and
maintain the arms procurement policy in the face of China's
political and military threat. End summary.
A) "Seeking Benefits for China and Murdering Taiwan"
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 700,000]
editorialized (7/19):
"... It is a well-known fact that President Ma [Ying-jeou]
emphasized in his inaugural speech that 'we want to strengthen the
cooperative relations with the United States, a security ally and
trade partner;' 'we have the determination to defend Taiwan; [we]
will put up a reasonable defense budget and procure necessary
defensive weapons.' These words were meant for the ears of the
United States only. At the same time, however, the Ma
Administration was eager to beg China for direct charter flights and
[let Mainland Chinese] tourists come to Taiwan. As a result, [the
Ma Administration] hoped that the United States would suspend its
arms sales to Taiwan in an effort not to upset China and thereby
hinder negotiations between Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation
(SEF) and China's Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait
(ARATS). Isn't the Ma Administration's behavior equivalent to
telling the United States that during President Ma's governance,
'cross-Strait relations outweigh national security?' ...
"Within a short period of two months, President Ma has revealed his
shortcoming of being incapable of running a country. But Ma's
blueprint for governance is also unveiled. What is Ma's blueprint
of governance? In our view, [Ma's plan] is to distance Taiwan from
its allies such as the United States and Japan, which are helpful
for Taiwan in maintaining its status as a sovereign state, and to
regard China, which tries all means to annex Taiwan, as the mother
country. Therefore, each of the Ma Administration's policies is
pointing to 'the great deed of peaceful unification of both sides of
the Strait.' ..."
B) "The United States' Freeze of Arms Sales and Its Latest Change of
The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 500,000]
editorialized (7/19):
"... It appears that U.S. officials, think tanks, and senior
military officials have reached several consensuses for the time
being and have changed their ideas regarding the usual strategies
toward China and Taiwan. First, Taiwan has lost its ability to
provoke China and [challenge] the United States' definition of the
status-quo. Second, perhaps the United States does not need Taiwan
to play the strategic role of containing or blocking China. Third,
after the United States has frozen its arms sales [to Taiwan],
Taiwan is forced to tilt toward China even more. This is in the
United States' interests, because it defuses a war [that the United
States might fight] with China and benefits both the United States
and China. Fourth, when cross-Strait relations are improving, the
chances rise that any new types of weapons that the United States
sells to Taiwan will fall into China's hands. Fifth, as long as
China does not use force against Taiwan, the United States will win
both face and substance. The peaceful unification between both
sides of the Taiwan Strait will arrive eventually, and there is no
need to fight a war across the Strait. Such a development will
benefit both the Untied States and China. ..."
C) "A Subtle Connection between U.S.-Taiwan Arms Deals and the
Opening of Cross-Strait Economic Trade [Exchanges]"
The centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 300,000]
editorialized (7/19):
"... First, no one will deny that cross-Strait relations are
improving. Given such a climate, it is really difficult to imagine
that both sides of the Taiwan Strait will possibly resort to arms
again. Even so, one cannot say with certainty that both sides have
[each other's] promise of 'eternal peace.' What really matters now
is not whether both sides will sign a peace accord but the fact that
there are still significant differences that remain to be solved
between both sides in terms of many basic issues. One of the
evident examples are the arguments triggered by the title - 'Chinese
Taipei' - that Taiwan's Olympic team will use. Taiwan anticipates
greater 'international space,' but it cannot possibly put all its
hopes on Beijing's 'goodwill.' As a result, the answer to the
question whether Taiwan has had sufficient 'sense of security'
remains negative.
"Also, for the United States, arms deals between Taiwan and the
United States may only involve Washington's overall strategic
considerations in the Asia-Pacific region. But for Taiwan, they
also include more psychological factors. The arms procurements are
not only about the United States' security commitment to Taiwan,
rather they also have repercussions on changes in the substantive
relations between Washington and Taipei. In other words, it will
certainly not be something that the Ma Administration is happy to
see if the originally close cooperative military relations between
Taiwan and the United States are weakened by improved cross-Strait
ties. ..."
D) "Taiwan-U.S. Arms Deals: Pass [Condoleezza] Rice's Remarks onto
[Timothy] Keating"
The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation 400,000]
editorialized (7/19):
"... It is understandable that the United States does not want to
engage in conflicts with Beijing because of provocation by Taiwan
independence activists. But since Washington agrees with the policy
adopted by Taiwan's new administration to [push for] peace across
the Strait, it cannot overlook the military sector's function in
maintaining such a new [cross-Strait] development. As a matter of
fact, there is no way that the United States will provide sufficient
offensive weaponry to Taiwan. That is why Taiwan's armaments have
always stayed at the defensive level, or even a level that is
symbolically significant in terms of political psychology. Such a
level must be retained even when it is 'very, very, very unlikely to
have conflict across the Strait.' For Keating, therefore, his ideas
may be that there is no need for arms sales, as there will be no war
[across the Strait]. But judging from Taiwan's perspective, the
goal of arms procurement has never been to start a war, and yet arms
procurement is an indispensible element for Taiwan's sovereignty.
Naturally, for the Taiwan society, the interaction between arms
sales [by the United States] and arms procurements [by Taiwan] is
also an important indicator for Taipei-Washington relations.
"Taiwan's efforts to maintain reasonable armaments are an important
political support for peaceful exchanges across the Taiwan Strait.
It will be a plus for Beijing if Taiwan can use reasonable arms
procurements to maintain the psychological security of its society.
Perhaps Keating believes that [Washington] does not need to sell
weapons to Taiwan to create any variables to the new situation
across the Taiwan Strait. But he must not exclude [the possibility
that] reasonable arms procurements are conducive for maintaining
such a new situation. In this vein, now may be the best opportunity
for both Taiwan and the United States to ponder carefully
'reasonable arms procurements/arms sales.' ..."
E) "A Significant Test to the Ma Administration's Arms Sales
Lin Cheng-yi, a research fellow at the Institute of European and
American Studies of Academia Sinica, opined in the centrist,
KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 300,000] (7/19):
"... The [reason that the] Bush Administration has different
opinions regarding arms sales to Taiwan is a mixture of discontent
with Taiwan's delay of arms sales in the past and out of the
consideration that cross-Strait relations are improving
dramatically. ...Although the United States government's [decision]
to sell arms to Taiwan is made by interagency [review], [the
decision] is based uon Taiwan's defense needs and the United States
Department of Defense's professional judgment. Now, apparently
political judgment trumps military judgment, which is against the
spirit of the 'Taiwan Relations Act.' ...
"The future development of U.S.-Taiwan arms sales depends on
Taipei's policy and the communication of messages. Taiwan either
chooses peaceful unification or rejects arms procurement, and the
United States is in a passive state, instead of taking the
initiative. However, [judging from] President Ma Ying-jeou's
strategy of declaring [Taiwan's upholding] 'no unification and no
independence' while asking China for 'no use of force', and
[demanding] that the Legislative Yuan set three percent of
[Taiwan's] GDP as the defense budget, Taiwan and the United States
have more convergence than divergence in terms of national defense
and security. ...
"[U.S.] President [George W.] Bush's procrastination regarding
Congressional the notification of arms sales to Taiwan has caused
various speculations in the United States and Taiwan concerning the
relations between the two [Taiwan and the United States] and
concerning cross-Strait relations. This in turn increases the
chance that both [Taiwan and the United States] will want to
evaluate the [arms sales] further and disadvantages the resumption
of mutual trust between the United States and Taiwan. The call
against armaments and arms procurement might appear again [in
Taiwan] when Taiwan internally, facing economic difficulties, would
like to save the money intended for arms procurement from the United
States and use the money for Taiwan's infrastructure and social
welfare. Future U.S.-Taiwan arms sales might be affected by the
arrangement of 'military confidence-building measures' across the
Taiwan Strait. ..."
F) "Arms Freeze is Wake-Up Call"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (7/21):
"... Keating's confirmation of Bush's temporary suspension of arms
sales, which will affect items from diesel-electric submarines to
advanced attack helicopters as well as advanced F-16 C/D fighter
jets, has huge implications for Ma and his right-wing KMT government
and for our future security. ... Even after Ma won the March 22
presidential election, his ambiguous position on whether to maintain
Taiwan's strong defensive capability against the PRC military threat
spawned speculation and the immediate re-opening of party-to-party
talks between the KMT and the PRC's ruling Chinese Communist Party
apparently convinced Washington that there was no longer any 'clear
and present' threat of a military crisis in the Taiwan Strait.
"Although Ma then shifted to reaffirm publicly and privately the
need to purchase necessary and defensive weapons and stressed that
the KMT-controlled Legislative Yuan has already authorized the
related budgets, Washington has still unilaterally made its own
decision, despite publicly reaffirming that its own policy was
'unchanged.' Another factor behind this shift is Bush's desire to
rely on Beijing to help in resolving global and regional issues and
'engage' China. Bush's acceptance of the PRC's invitation to attend
the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics displayed
this mentality. ...
"Ma can help to shift the tide in favor of a lifting of the 'freeze'
by showing stronger resolve and by stressing that the current
goodwill policies by no means signify the end of any military threat
to Taiwan. ... We strongly and solemnly urge President Ma to stand
firm on the issues of purchasing sufficient and necessary weapons to
maintain Taiwan's self-defensive capability and urge both the KMT
government and the opposition DPP to intensify dialogue with both
the Obama and McMain camps and provide them with persuasive
evidences of Taiwan's need and determination to maintain such a
defensive capacity and the importance of this capacity to the
strategic interests of the United States, Japan and the world
democratic community."
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