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Listen to the voice

Ma vows 228 transitional justice

COEXIST PEACEFULLY: The president acknowledged the KMT’s ‘political’ responsibility for the 228 Incident while speaking at the Taiwanese-Korean Human Rights Forum


By Mo Yan-Chih

Sunday, Oct 05, 2008, Page 3

Lin Li-tsai, a relative of a victim of the 228 Incident, yesterday protests during President Ma Ying-jeou’s speech at the opening ceremony of the First Taiwanese-Korean Human Rights Forum in Taipei. Her banner reads, “Region Chief Ma, where is the transitional justice for the 228 Incident?”


President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday promised to push for judicial independence and justice, and to create a harmonious society to prevent violations of human rights like those that occurred during the 228 Incident.

The 228 Incident refers to a massacre in 1947 when Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) troops suppressed a Taiwanese uprising, leaving tens of thousands dead, missing or imprisoned. The event marked the beginning of the White Terror period in Taiwan, in which thousands more Taiwanese disappeared, were killed or imprisoned.

Ma yesterday vowed to continue promoting transitional justice to ensure that power does not corrupt.

“People of different ethnic groups should coexist peacefully and not resort to violence ... On the other hand, the government should not meddle in media coverage and should conduct investigations selectively,” Ma said in a speech to the Taiwanese-Korean Human Rights Forum at the National Library conference hall.

The forum was co-sponsored by the 228 Memorial Foundation and Korea’s May 18 Memorial Foundation. Representatives of human rights organizations, government officials and academics from Taiwan and South Korea were invited to share their experiences and exchange views on human rights and transitional justice.

Ma acknowledged the KMT “political” responsibility for the 228 Incident and promised to continue research into the crackdown.

“Historical mistakes can be forgiven, but should not be forgotten. We should work together to ensure that future generations have a profound understanding of the 228 Incident so no such incidents will occur again,” he said.

Ma’s attendance at the forum, however, met with protest from a family member of a victim of the 228 Incident. Lin Li-tsai (林黎彩) showed a banner reading “Region Chief Ma, where is the transitional justice for the 228 Incident?” as Ma was addressing the forum.

Ma was condemned by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for denigrating the country by referring to it as the “Republic of China, Taiwan region” when receiving foreign guests last month.

Ma ignored the protest and proceeded with his speech. Lin later refused to shake hands with Ma as he greeted the victims of the incident and their family members.

“Why should I shake hands with rubbish? ... Taiwan is a country. Even though the international community does not recognize us, he was elected with over 7 million votes and should not belittle himself like that,” she said.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who also attended the forum, said the legislature had passed the Statute for the Handling of and Compensation for the 228 Incident (二二八事件處理及補償條例) and other laws to compensate victims of political persecutions.

Wang said legislators across party lines would continue efforts to make up for the injustice done to political victims.

Chang Yen-hsien (張炎憲), former president of Academia Historica, said South Korea and other countries had set up reconciliation commissions to redress similar grievances and look into political responsibility.

Chang condemned the KMT for failing to provide detailed explanations of the 228 Incident to the victims’ families and suggested that law experts should determine offenders’ civil and criminal responsibilities.



Listen to the voice

US arms sales and the ‘status quo’

By Yu Tsung-Chi 余宗基
Sunday, Oct 05, 2008, Page 8


Before being pushed through, the Bush administration’s freezing of the defense package so necessary to Taiwan’s security spawned speculation over changes to its “security commitment” and disregard for the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).

The TRA states that the US must provide “defense articles and services” that maintain Taiwan’s “sufficient self-defense capability.” In April 2001, US President George W. Bush approved a multibillion-dollar sales package that included eight diesel-powered submarines, Mark-48 torpedoes, Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles, PAC-3 missiles, self-propelled howitzers and Apache helicopters. In August last year, Taiwan further requested the addition of sixty-six F-16 C/D fighter aircraft based on defense requirements and Pentagon concerns.

The failure of the Bush administration to submit congressional notifications for Taiwan’s defense procurements until the very end of Bush’s term deserves further analysis, particularly the faulty logic behind the freeze.

Experience has shown that US arms sales to Taiwan have been informed by international and domestic considerations.

On the international side, the US-China-Taiwan triangular relationship has always been the most important factor. In the past, whenever the bilateral relationships between Washington and Beijing or Beijing and Taipei became tense, the US was more likely to look favorably upon arms sales to Taiwan.

For instance, after the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the bombing of China’s embassy in Belgrade in 1999, the EP-3 surveillance plane collision in 2001 and the Taiwan Strait missile crisis in 1996, the US green-lighted arms sales to Taiwan.

Perhaps a “balance of power” across the Taiwan Strait was believed to be a guarantor for the status quo at those times.

On the domestic side, the US has been less likely to approve arms transactions to Taiwan in the wake of major political or economic events, such as presidential elections, economic instability and public hostility toward Washington’s military activities.

Examples of this are the Vietnam War during the Nixon administration, the Reagan administration’s political agenda and the economic concerns of the Clinton administration. The more the Taiwan issue paled in comparison with domestic or international hot potatoes, the more Washington accommodated China’s demands.

Thus, the domestic and international troubles facing the Bush administration could have justified the delay in the congressional notifications. On Sept. 22, Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) met to discuss how China could help the US solve the financial crisis on Wall Street. In addition, with tensions between Georgia with Russia, the US even more urgently needs China’s cooperation over the dismantling of nuclear facilities on the Korean Peninsula.

These events to a great extent have bound US-China relations more tightly than ever.

Meanwhile, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government is conducting pragmatic diplomacy with China in a seeming switch from the “balance of power” to the “balance of threat” mentality, suggesting that a de-emphasis on military security is in the offing.

This may vindicate the judgment of senior officials in the Bush administration who frame the debate solely in terms of the arms that Taiwan needs. Because cross-strait tensions are thawing and a confrontational scenario is very unlikely, the reasoning goes, there is no urgent need for defense procurements now, if ever. This further leads to the sanguine view that a balance of power may not be necessary in the Taiwan Strait.

This line of thinking may be persuasive in the short term, but it is not necessarily so compelling from a long-term perspective. Washington should not ignore the fact that the mechanics of maintaining the status quo are based on a permanently ambiguous dual-deterrent strategy toward Beijing and Taipei.

Any haphazard tilting toward either side will sabotage this dynamic equilibrium, which has endured so successfully between Washington, Beijing and Taipei over the past decades.

In order to maintain the status quo across the Strait, Washington should ask China to remove its missiles aimed at Taiwan.

China in turn should reconsider its use of these missiles, because they are the driving force behind Taiwan’s push to arm itself in its own defense.


Listen to the voice

Arms freeze reflected a problem in ties with US

By Chen Kuo-Hsiung 陳國雄
Sunday, Oct 05, 2008, Page 8

‘US policies toward Asia have always shown that the US sees China as a potential opponent in the region.’

The freeze imposed by the administration of US President George W. Bush on arms sales to Taiwan, now lifted for the most part, had nothing to do with congressional procedure, because the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency had already notified Congress of arms sales to France, Pakistan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Even though it had lost confidence in former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) government, the Bush administration still agreed to plans last year to sell twelve P-3C marine patrol aircraft and 144 SM-2 missiles to help Taiwan defend against cruise missiles and aircraft threats.

The US government’s subsequent freeze on the arms deal that was eventually supported by the government of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) then proved that the US had lost confidence in the Ma administration.

When the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was in opposition, its legislators and their allies vehemently opposed what they called an overpriced arms procurement deal. Not long after the Ma administration took power, there were rumors that it told the US government that it would not purchase arms from Washington.

Any such actions may have infuriated the Bush administration, leading to its decision to freeze the deal. However, the fundamental reason for this decision was that the US government had lost confidence in Ma’s security agenda.

Despite the fact that the US maintains a close relationship with China on trade and international politics, US policies toward Asia have always shown that the US sees China as a potential opponent in the region.

Thus, in strategic terms, not only does the US government cooperate with Japan while building its relations with other Asian allies, it also maintains forward-deployed forces in the Pacific region to contain China’s ambition to expand militarily.

Given this state of affairs, the US would be hurting itself if high-tech arms and technology sold to Taiwan eventually fell into Chinese hands.

Although the US is happy to see cross-strait relations remain peaceful and stable, it has never wanted Taiwan to become dependent on China.

However, the Ma administration’s blind tilting toward China has caused the US to worry that Ma is likely to seek unification.

Thus in late August, American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt said that Taipei should refrain from implying that China has sovereignty over Taiwan and instead insist that China not have a final say on whether Taiwan can participate in international activities. It was the first time that the US government had extended a strong warning of this nature to Taiwan.

The Bush administration’s freeze of the arms procurement deal was a second warning. If there is to be a third, it will be a strikeout, and this is something that the Ma administration should note well.

Chen Kuo-hsiung is vice general-secretary of World United Formosans for Independence and general-secretary of the Taiwan National Security Institute.

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