Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations

Published: Sun 29 Nov 2009 11:42 PM
DE RUEHIN #1404/01 3332342
R 292342Z NOV 09
E.O. 12958: N/A
Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused November
26-27 news coverage on the controversy surrounding animated news
stories launched by Taiwan's mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
newspaper and on the campaigns for Taiwan local elections scheduled
for December 5. Concerning editorials and commentaries, remarks by
American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt, who
visited Taiwan to brief Taiwan officials and opposition leaders,
remain a topic of discussion. Although a column in the KMT-leaning
"China Times" said the failure to mention the Taiwan Relations Act
(TRA) and the reiteration of the "respect for each other's
sovereignty and territorial integrity" in the Sino-U.S. statement
had great impact on Taiwan, it still praised Burghardt's efforts to
clarify Taiwan's confusion about the Sino-U.S. statement released by
Chinese President Hu Jintao and President Obama. An editorial in
"Apple Daily" reiterated the significance of United States' arms
sales to Taiwan even though it seems to be more difficult for Taiwan
to buy weapons from the United States, judging from Burghardt's
remarks and President Obama's trip to China. A column in the
conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post" echoed
Burghardt's remarks that the language in the Sino-U.S. statement -
"respect for each other's territorial integrity" - does not apply to
Taiwan. An editorial in the pro-independence, English-language
"Taiwan News" criticized remarks by President Obama and Burghardt's
remarks as "not respecting the fact that Taiwan is now a fully
democratic state and the right of the 23 million Taiwan people to
have the final power to decide Taiwan's future." End summary.
A) "The Impact of the Obama-Hu Jintao Statement"
Columnist Norman Fu wrote in his column in the KMT-leaning "China
Times" [circulation: 120,000] (11/27):
"... The impact of the statement between President Obama and
President Hu Jintao lies in the failure to mention the 'Taiwan
Relations Act' and the reiteration of 'respect for each other's
sovereignty and territorial integrity.' ...
"Remarks by [American Institute in Taiwan Chairman] Raymond
Burghardt, who said 'respect for each other's sovereignty and
territorial integrity' referred to Tibet and Xinjiang and had
nothing to do with Taiwan, were somewhat surprising. However,
Burghardt gave those remarks with certainty at a press conference
and because the information was from [senior director for East Asian
Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council] Jeffrey Bader and
[U.S. Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs] Kurt
Campbell, who were the two experts accompanying U.S. President Obama
on his visit to China, you cannot help believing in the remarks.
However, we cannot totally believe [in what he said], at least not
as long as it is only the United States saying this unilaterally.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) definitely would not agree with or
accept [the U.S. characterization of this] and we can only accept
the U.S. view on this for the time being. ...
"In general, Burghardt's trip to Taiwan to brief on [President
Obama's visit to China] was timely. [Burghardt's] clarification and
explanation regarding the confusion was also clear and decisive.
Different from U.S. diplomats' habitual practice of double-speak,
[Burghardt's] performance was worth praising."
B) "The Symbolism of Arms Procurement"
The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000]
editorialized (11/26):
"American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt said the
United States' policy on arms sales to Taiwan remains unchanged and
the United States will continue evaluating arms sales in the
"Judging from President Obama's trip to China and Burghardt's very
official-style remarks, we feel that it is more and more difficult
for Taiwan to procure arms from the United States. If we have the
chance to buy high-tech weapons, we should proceed as quickly as
possible to buy them. Reasons that it is more and more difficult
for Taiwan to buy arms [from the United States] are as follows,
including: the United States cares more and more about China's
feeling; Obama has a weak personality and has no interest in the
security of Taiwan; the Ma Ying-jeou administration does not believe
that the threat of China is either substantive or obvious and
imminent; as a result the Ma administration is not active in
procuring arms; the defense budget, which will suffer from an
increasing deficit after implementing a policy of voluntary military
service, will be insufficient to procure expensive weapons; the
Taiwan government and [Taiwan] military have many Chinese friends
and there are many spies. The United States is worried that secrets
of the high-tech weapons will be passed to China.
"Arms procurement from the United States has significant symbolism.
It means that substantial military contact between the United States
and Taiwan will not be interrupted. It means that Taiwan is still
in the national interest of the United States in the West Pacific.
"In peacetime, the implications of this symbolism are very
important. It is a psychological mechanism to deter conflicts.
Taiwan does not need to buy the first-class weapons such as F-35
fighter jets or Aegis ships. They are not only too expensive but
the U.S. will also not agree to sell them [to Taiwan]. The symbolic
implications of procuring second-class weapons will be enough. They
[the second-class weapons] will be able to maintain equilibrium
between the military powers on the both sides of the Taiwan Strait."
C) "No Change in U.S. Taiwan Policy"
Columnist William Fang wrote in the conservative, pro-unification,
English-language "China Post" [circulation: 30,000] (11/27):
"... Diplomacy is an art where often what is not said is more
important than what is said and what is done is more important than
what is said. In the statement issued jointly by Obama and Hu, the
stress of respect of each other's territorial integrity easily
touched on the nerves of Taiwan as it might mean that America agreed
that Taiwan 'is an integral part of China.' But, as we go on
reading the document, we will realize that the U.S. recognized
Tibet, not Taiwan, as part of China. ...
"Just as [American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond] Burghardt
put it when commenting on the Obama-Hu joint statement, 'if we
insisted (referring to including the TRA), we wouldn't have the
joint statement. That's sort of understandable.' [sic - Director
Stanton actually said this] What Taiwan should really be concerned
about is not what the U.S. says, but whether it continues to fulfill
its obligation to provide necessary weapons in defense of the island
as required by the TRA."
D) "Obama's Messenger Needs Taiwan Democracy Lessons"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (11/26):
"American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt arrived
Sunday to deliver assurances from U.S. President Barack Obama that
Washington's policy toward Taiwan had not changed despite the
statement of 'respect' given by the U.S. to the 'sovereignty and
territorial integrity' of the authoritarian People's Republic of
China and the lack of mention of the critical Taiwan Relations Act
of 1979.
"However, Washington's messenger failed to provide reassurance on
the most fundamental issue, namely whether the new Democratic
president will 'respect' the fact that Taiwan is now a fully
democratic state and whether Obama will 'respect' the fundamental
right of the 23 million Taiwan people to have the final power to
decide their future, including the shape of future relations with
the PRC. ...
"Beijing will undoubtedly use U.S.-China Joint Statement's
affirmation of Washington's 'respect' for 'China's sovereignty and
integrity' in the world media as confirmation of its own claim of
ownership over Taiwan. ...
"Even more worrying is Washington's evident lack of 'respect' for
the fact that Taiwan is a democratic society and for the fundamental
human rights, including the right of self-determination, of the
Taiwan people. The AIT chairman manifested his disrespect for
Taiwan's democracy by incorrectly and insultingly characterizing
citizen opposition to the October 22 protocol to open Taiwan's
market to high-risk ground beef, beef on bone and offals as a 'phony
"But far more worrisome was Burghardt's statement Tuesday evening
that Washington maintains that the disputes between the PRC and
Taiwan should be resolved through 'peaceful means' and 'with the
assent of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. This
formula of 'dual assent,' which appeared in the middle of the Bush
administration's eight years, marked a dramatic and dangerous
retreat from the position articulated by former Democratic president
Bill Clinton on February 24, 2000 that 'issues between Taiwan and
China should be resolved peacefully' and 'with the assent of the
people of Taiwan.' ...
"Obama has an obligation to publically reassure both the Taiwan
people and the world community that Washington does not include
Taiwan in its expression of 'respect' for the PRC's sovereignty,
that his administration will not retreat on its obligations under
the TRA and that his administration will uphold the principle that
differences between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait must be
resolved peacefully and 'with the assent of the Taiwan people'
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