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US freezes weapons sales to Taiwan

'UNDER CONTROL': : Despite the unprecedented move, a KMT legislator with influence in defense matters was confident that the arms would eventually be sold to Taiwan

By Martin Williams and Jimmy Chuang
Wednesday, Jun 11, 2008, Page 1

The US has frozen arms sales to Taiwan until the end of the Beijing Olympics and possibly until US President George W. Bush leaves office, the latest edition of Defense News said.

The periodical reported on Monday that the US State Department had elected to freeze all congressional notifications — an essential process prior to approval — for weapons sales to Taiwan.

The sales would amount to some US$12 billion for the acquisition of 30 Apache Longbow attack helicopters, 60 Black Hawk helicopters, eight diesel electric submarines, four PAC-3 air defense missile batteries and 66 F-16 fighter aircraft.

Twelve Orion maritime patrol aircraft were not subject to the freeze because they had already been approved for delivery, the periodical said.

Sources told Defense News that the unprecedented move came at the behest of Beijing-friendly officials at the US State Department and officials at the US embassy in Beijing, who believe that Washington should “placate China.” The purpose was to smooth the way for talks between China and Taiwan and for Bush to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games, they said.

The periodical quoted Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute think tank and former country director for China and Taiwan in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as saying the freeze contravened the Taiwan Relations Act, a piece of legislation supporting Taiwan’s security that came into effect when Washington recognized Beijing 30 years ago.

The Defense News sources disagreed on when the freeze would be lifted, but there were reported to be fears in Taiwanese circles that the move could become permanent after the inauguration of the new US president amid warming ties between Taiwan’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government and Beijing.

Yesterday, the Ministry of National Defense told the Taipei Times that “everything is under control.”

“I have no comment on the story, but I can assure you that our regular communication and cooperation with the US remain intact,” ministry spokeswoman Colonel Lisa Chi (池玉蘭) said.

But a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman expressed concerns over the report.

“If that happens, then I think the KMT should take all responsibility,” DPP legislative caucus whip William Lai (賴清德) said.

Lai said that all the weapons on the list were items that the previous DPP government had sought to purchase from the US for a long time.

He said much of the procurement process had been delayed because of the KMT’s boycott in the legislature’s National Defense Committee, now known as the Diplomacy and National Defense Committee.

“Ever since Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) entered the Presidential Office, the KMT has been pushing the country in China’s favor. It does not surprise me that the US has come up with this decision at this time,” Lai said.

Diplomacy and National Defense Committee member and KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said he was not concerned by the development.

He said any freeze would bring a degree of relief to cross-strait ties and that the US wanted to see a harmonious relationship develop between China and Taiwan.

Lin, however, said he believed the US would sell the weapons to Taiwan in the end anyway.

KMT legislative caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) had no comment on the matter when approached by the Taipei Times.



Taichung mayor says Jackie Chan welcome to visit

Wednesday, Jun 11, 2008, Page 1

Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) said yesterday that Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan (成龍) would be more than welcome to visit Taichung for a film festival a day after city councilors said the star should be barred from attending.

“Politics and entertainment should not be mixed,” Hu said.

Hu’s comments came after Chan became the focus of a rowdy debate on Monday when a joint committee of the Taichung City Council reviewed an addition to the budget for the Golden Horse film festival.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) councilors Hsiao Chieh (蕭杰), Chen Fu-wen (陳福文) and Wang Yue-bin (王岳彬) and the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Ting Cheng-chia (丁振嘉) asked that the city not invite the star to the 45th Golden Horse Festival and award ceremony.

“Jackie Chan still owes Taiwanese an apology,” Hsiao said, referring to the actor-director’s description of the shooting of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on the eve of the 2004 presidential election as “a big joke,” which Hsiao said was tantamount to “humiliating all Taiwanese people.”

“If Jackie Chan comes, I will pelt him with eggs,” Hsiao said.

In response, director of the Taichung City Government’s Department of Information Chen Yun-feng (陳永豐) said the Chan incident was “a thing of the past” and urged city councilors to look ahead, adding that directors from Hong Kong, Macau and China would be invited to attend the gala.

As Taiwan is expecting the arrival of more Chinese tourists next month, he said the film festival would also help promote the city.

The city has obtained the right to host this year’s Golden Horse Awards, which will be held on Dec. 6.

The festival’s executive committee estimated that hosting the event would cost about NT$60 million (US$2 million), with NT$15 million coming from the Government Information Office, NT$20 million from the city government and the balance from the executive committee.

Other councilors said the Taichung City Government should not spend money on the project, but rather should ask for more subsidies from the central government or solicit funds from private sponsors.

Several councilors said that as Taichung hosted the festival four years ago, it should let another city or county sponsor the event because it would not do much to promote Taichung.

The joint committee passed a resolution asking the city to request more funding from the central government.

It said that if the city managed to obtain more funding, the additional NT$20 million budget would not be needed. Conversely, if no new funding was forthcoming, the NT$20 million budget would then be passed.

In an addendum to the resolution, some council members asked that the Golden Horse Awards executive committee not invite Chan to the festival, but a majority of members present said they disagreed with the proposal.



SEF chief to invite ARATS head to Taiwan for a visit

By Jenny W. Hsu
Wednesday, Jun 11, 2008, Page 3

Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) yesterday lauded the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government for paving the way on making the resumption of cross-strait negotiations possible and said he plans to personally invite his counterpart, the head of China's Association on Relations across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), to visit Taiwan.

The SEF and ARATS are the only quasi-official organizations authorized by Taipei and Beijing to represent the respective governments in cross-strait talks.

Chiang, speaking to the press on the eve of the four-day Beijing trip, said the DPP government had made significant contributions in reviving the mechanism for official cross-strait talks, which had been frozen since 1999.

Even after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) won the presidential election on March 22, Chiang said, “many DPP teams continued to work hard to negotiate with the other side.”

Chiang will lead a 19-member delegation comprised of officials from the Mainland Affairs Council, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, the National Immigration Agency and the Tourism Bureau to Beijing today to close a deal on commencing direct weekend charter flights for passengers and allowing Chinese tourists to come to Taiwan starting next month.

The delegation will arrive in Beijing at 3pm this afternoon and the Chiang-Chen meeting is scheduled to take place tomorrow morning before the official negotiations start.

“I will invite Chen to come visit Taiwan at a time of his convenience,” Chiang said.

Chen would be the first ARATS chairman to visit Taiwan if he accepted Chiang’s invitation.

The negotiation process will be co-led by the SEF Secretary-General Kao Koong-lian (高孔廉) and his Chinese equivalent from ARATS. Chiang and Chen will not directly participate in the talks and will not meet again until the signing of the deal on Friday morning.

As of press time, neither ARATS nor the SEF had released any names or position titles of the Chinese delegation.

The first phase of negotiations will focus on direct passenger flights followed by tourism in the afternoon. Kao revealed that Taiwan would allow Chinese airline companies to set up branches in Taiwan because many Taiwanese airliners have already done so in China.

Chiang said that although the two sides will not sign a deal on direct cargo transport during this round of negotiations, the topic would be thoroughly debated.

So far the SEF has been unwilling to confirm a possible meeting between Chiang and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), however, a high-ranking SEF official has told the press that “the highlight of the trip will not take place until after the signing,” hinting that Chiang and Hu would most likely meet on Friday afternoon.



Gates vows commitment to Asia

By Ralph Cossa
Wednesday, Jun 11, 2008, Page 8

‘Missile defense, Ma [Xiaotian] said, was “not helpful in strategic balance,” although he failed to explain why the massive build-up of offensive missiles opposite Taiwan was any less helpful.’

The US is a “resident” power in Asia that has been and will remain fully engaged in the region, supportive of and involved in the development of any regional security architecture: This was the central message delivered by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore over the weekend.

Press coverage has focused on his “subtle warnings” to China and blunt comments about Myanmar, but the real message was one of reassurance of continued US commitment to the region.

This was demonstrated by Gates’ three main points: The US is “a Pacific nation with an enduring role in Asia”; it stands “for openness, against exclusivity”; and the future policy of any new US administration will be “grounded in the fact that the United States remains a nation with strong and enduring interests in the region.”

As one would expect, Gates pointed to Washington’s five alliances — with Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand — as “the foundation of our security presence,” adding that they were “enabled and strengthened by our relationships with partners and friends.”

He said the US military presence in the region as a sign of continued commitment and the ability “to respond quickly to a number of contingencies.”

Unlike the speeches of his predecessor, Gates barely mentioned China by name during his presentation and when he did, it was generally in complimentary or sympathetic terms. He praised Beijing’s “valued cooperation” on North Korean denuclearization and noted the increased level of engagement between the two militaries, while extending condolences over the tragic loss of life during the Sichuan earthquake.

More obliquely — but with China clearly in mind — he acknowledged regional worries about rising demand for resources and “coercive diplomacy” and called for “more military openness in military modernization in Asia.”

When he cited the advanced notification and open manner in which the US shot down a defunct satellite in February as an example of US military transparency, the comparison with China’s anti-satellite test last year was obvious, even if left unsaid.

Lieutenant General Ma Xiaotian (馬嘯天), deputy chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), was less subtle. He did not mention the US (other than including Hurricane Katrina in the list of recent natural disasters), but did identify “expansion of military alliance” and “development and expansion of missile defense system” among the major security challenges the region still faces.

While Gates saw alliances as a positive factor, Ma saw them as “ensuring security of some countries at the expense of others.” Questions from the floor asking for clarification on this point were left unanswered. Missile defense, Ma said, was “not helpful in strategic balance,” although he failed to explain why the massive build-up of offensive missiles opposite Taiwan was any less helpful.

Nonetheless, Ma’s central message was also one of reassurance: “China is a peace-loving country” that would always adopt “a defensive defense policy,” would not engage in an arms race, would never seek hegemony or expansion, and would be a “military threat to no other country.”

He also spoke of “positive developments” and “good momentum” in the cross-strait situation, but added that “the mission of opposing and curbing secessionist activities remains strenuous.”

Ma shared the podium with Japanese Defense Minister Ishiba Shigeru who, along with Ma, underscored improvement in Sino-Japanese relations. Ishiba called on Beijing to increase its military transparency but said that “Japan does not subscribe to purposely overstating China as a threat.”

The toughest questions from the floor were directed toward — and largely unanswered or evaded by — Myanmar’s Deputy Minister of Defense Mgen Aye Myint, who wanted the audience to believe that Typhoon Nargis rescue and recovery operations were proceeding smoothly, while assuring his colleagues that all outside aid was welcome “as long as there were no strings attached.”

It was refreshing to hear an ASEAN senior statesman press his Burmese colleague on the issue of “responsibility to protect,” even if there was no follow-through. The genuine sense of embarrassment in ASEAN over Myanmar’s actions in the wake of the natural disaster was obvious. But whether this takes the form of policy-related actions or decisions remains to be seen.

The one thing that virtually all present, including Gates, seemed to agree on was that there would be no forced distribution of aid.

The toughest response to a question came from Gates. In his prepared remarks, he had been factual and largely neutral in discussing Myanmar, merely noting the US’ willingness to help, despite obstructions, and welcoming ASEAN’s leadership in searching for a mechanism to help get aid to those most in need.

When asked by a former Singaporean diplomat why Washington was not prepared to change its “failed policy of isolationism” against Myanmar, however, Gates forcefully said: “We have reached out; they have kept their hands in their pockets,” adding that to date ASEAN’s engagement policy likewise seems to have had “zero influence” on Myanmar. The problem here is not Washington’s — or ASEAN’s — policies; it’s the ruling junta in Myanmar.

Unlike speeches by his predecessors at earlier Shangri-La Dialogues, Gates mostly avoided talking about the Middle East or global issues in general, other than to acknowledge regional concerns that actions in Iraq and Afghanistan were distracting US attention from Asia, a notion he hoped his speech would serve to disabuse. Refreshingly, nowhere in Gates’ speech was there any reference to the global war on terrorism, indicating that the Pentagon has gotten the message that Washington’s constant hectoring on this topic is counterproductive and sends the wrong message about US priorities in Asia.

What defense establishments in Asia wanted and needed to hear was the reassurance that, despite commitments and distractions elsewhere, Washington remained aware of the region’s growing importance and would remain engaged, regardless of who the next US president might be.

Ralph Cossa is president of the Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu-based nonprofit research institute affiliated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.



There’s not much good in Beijing’s ‘goodwill’

By Chiang Huang-chih 姜皇池
Wednesday, Jun 11, 2008, Page 8

Various Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) VIPs, including former chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄), have visited Beijing in attempts to improve cross-strait relations. After returning to Taiwan, Wu humbly declared that he was well-treated by the Chinese before dispatching Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) to negotiate the details of weekend chartered flights and Chinese tourism to Taiwan. But there were previous statements that, once dialogue resumed, Taiwan’s participation in the WHO would be the main priority for discussion.

One begins to wonder if there are matters of greater urgency, or if Taiwan’s WHO membership is no longer considered a priority.

There is no need to relate the oppression that Taiwan has suffered in its attempts to join the WHO. China’s formulation of the “Anti-Secession” Law in March 2005 shocked Taiwan and drew international criticism. But in April of that year, Lien led a group to visit China. In response, China exhibited “goodwill” and in May signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the WHO, promising that information would be passed on to Taiwan and that channels of communication would remain open.

The MOU is built on the precondition that Taiwan is the territory of the People’s Republic of China and must look to the Chinese government for decisions in all matters. Although the government did not accept the memorandum, the WHO secretariat implemented it — a fine example of how Beijing’s “goodwill” operates.

The Department of Health says that between 2005 and last year the WHO held 1,000 technical conferences on infectious diseases. China only informed Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control of 40 of these events, and Taiwanese experts were only permitted to attend nine. In the last year, the WHO sent 236 health-related notices, only 16 of which were relayed to Taiwan. Of those, most were so delayed that the message was received only after the diseases had been covered in the international press.

Citing the MOU, Chinese representatives to the WHO claim that the medical and health requirements of their “Taiwanese compatriots” are well cared for, that “Taiwanese compatriots” are participating fully in WHO-related events and that China will fully assist in fulfilling the needs of its “Taiwanese compatriots.”

At this year’s World Health Assembly meeting, members asked why Taiwan only received information concerning shigella after a long delay. China calmly replied that the enormity of its country and the size of its population occasionally leads to delays, but that they would work to improve their ability to inform. Their attitude is an immeasurable tragedy for Taiwan.

Following Wu’s recent efforts, China appears once again to be demonstrating their “goodwill.” Yet whether the WHO is still a priority remains unknown. The government may believe that this opportunity must not be missed, and that all should be conducted according to the supreme will of China. But if participation in the WHO must follow the conditions of the aforementioned MOU, then no matter what amendments are made, the degree and nature of participation will remain entirely dependent on Beijing.

The price of accepting this framework is placing Taiwan within the People’s Republic of China. If Taiwan can only increase its participation based on this type of “goodwill,” then in practice it is at the cost of our autonomy. Rather than increasing Taiwan’s international space, this model brings further constraint. The government should proceed cautiously lest it make dire errors in its impatient pursuit of a diplomatic breakthrough.

Chiang Huang-chih is an associate professor at National Taiwan University’s College of Law.


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