2004-12-02 00:01:00
American Institute Taiwan, Taipei
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E.O. 12958: N/A

Summary: The Chinese-language "China Times" carried a
news analysis by Washington correspondent Liu Ping
discussing the United States' concerns over some recent
moves by Taiwan that might have crossed the "red line"
and as a result, triggered tension across the Taiwan
Strait. The "China Times" also ran an on-the-spot
report describing State Department Richard Boucher's
reaction when he replied to a related question at the
State Department's regular news briefing. Full text
translation of the news analysis and some block quotes
of the on-the-spot report follow.

A) "Worrying about Taiwan Crossing the Red Line, the
United States Sends out Warnings"

Washington correspondent Liu Ping said in the centrist,
pro-status quo "China Times" (12/1):

"On an early autumn evening, in a city away from
Washington, a U.S official in charge of East Asian
affairs lamented: "There has never been any U.S.
president that is so friendly with Taiwan like
President George W. Bush. But many of the approaches
or moves taken by Taiwan . ." A senior adviser to
Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian placed advertisements
in U.S. newspapers questioning the United States' cross-
Strait policy; a Taiwan official whose rank equals that
of a premier hosted a conference in Washington on
`instituting a constitution [for Taiwan],' something
that Washington hates to see; cross-Strait tension has
escalated [beyond] that of four years ago; and Taiwan's
special arms procurement budget, which the United
States cares very much about, has now reached an
impasse and does not seem to be going anywhere. All of
the events above are reasons why this American official
felt sad. The statements by Secretary of State Collin
Powell later that astonished Taiwan also had something
to do with these reasons.

"Over the past few weeks, as [Taiwan's] legislative
election approaches, several moves by Taiwan have
really opened the United States' eyes. Candidates
running in the legislative elections are talking
recklessly; moreover, President Chen has been
continuously throwing out one issue after another. Of
course the United States can sometimes dismiss such
issues with a laugh, but for certain issues, it has to
face them cautiously. The `soft coup' issue belongs to

the former category, while the `referendum on a new
constitution' belongs to the latter one.

"Among the issues that President Chen has talked about
lately, the new constitution is not the only one that
the United States is worried about. The United States
has also expressed concern over such controversial
issues as revising `history textbooks' and `changing
[Taiwan's] national emblem.' Rumor has it that Deputy
Assistant Secretary of State Randy Schriver called
Taipei and inquired about the dispute over history
textbooks. What is involved in these issues is not
only that a new crisis might emerge across the Taiwan
Strait but also that a confrontation might ignite
within Taiwan, and this is something that the United
States does not hope to see.

"The United States knows that many remarks made by
President Chen are campaign rhetoric. However, when
some comments have been said repeatedly not only by
Chen himself but also by people who surround him, and
they have been said not only in Taiwan but also in the
United States as well, the United States cannot view
these comments simply as [being meant for] `domestic
consumption in Taiwan.' What the United States is
concerned about is that Taiwan has been trying to use
this approach to test the bottom line. It is uncertain
when Taiwan will cross the red line if the United
States does not stop Taiwan right now.

"As James Mulvenon, an expert at Rand Corp, said at a
seminar on the Peoples' Liberation Army, 2006 is a
critical year because President Chen will hold a
referendum on [Taiwan's] new constitution that year --
a move that will indicate `crossing the de jure red
line' and bring unexpectedly serious consequences [for

"Many experts and scholars share the same concerns.
According to their observations, some people in Taiwan
firmly believe that China will not use force against
Taiwan, especially before 2008 (when the Olympic Games
are to be held in Beijing). Even if China did use
force against Taiwan, the United States would
definitely defeat China. Hence, the DPP government
chose to put the new constitution to a referendum in
2006 and put it into effect in 2008. Due to these
concerns, the United States has explicitly expressed
its view that President Chen's "four No's" pledge and
the referendum on a new constitution cannot be viewed

"Sources said the United States is actually very
concerned about [Taiwan's] special arms budget. As a
result, the United States would be very happy if
President Chen's campaign rhetoric was being made in
order to help the Pan-Green alliance win the majority
of seats [in the legislative elections] and, further,
to get the budget [passed] as soon as possible.
However, since the purpose of the arms budget is to
maintain the peace [across the Taiwan Strait], any
careless campaign rhetoric that may result in burying
peace is not in the interests of the United States.

"In the aforementioned seminar, a paper presented by
Heritage Foundation specialist John Tkacik (which was
read out by his colleague Harvey Feldman) pointed out
that many people consider Chinese President Hu Jintao
to be a reformer, like the Mikhail Gorbachev of China,
but in reality he is not. `Gorbachev did not have iron
teeth, but Hu Jintao does,' Tkacik said. The
implication is that Hu will take a hard stand [toward
Taiwan] whenever necessary. Since the ruling
government in Taiwan welcomes every statement made by
Tkacik, why does it not take his observation about Hu
more seriously?"

B) "Richard Boucher Puts It in a Serious Way When He
Asks Chen to Give an Explanation"

Washington correspondent Liu Ping said in a second
article in the centrist, pro-status quo "China Times"

". But when asked about President Chen's plan to `hold
a referendum on [Taiwan's] new constitution', [State
Department Spokesman] Richard Boucher stopped smiling,
took out written documents that had been prepared in
advance, and read out verbatim Chen's `four No's'
pledge he made four years ago. When talking, Boucher
`complimented President Chen's commitment and his later
reconfirmation,' but on the other hand, he used words
like `take it seriously,' `the (pledge) is very, very
important' to express the United States' strong concern
about whether [Chen] can keep his commitments.

"It is rare to hear [Boucher use] words like `such
commitments must be respected.' He was reminding Chen
that `A ruler is expected to honor all his promises,'
but in reality, he was admonishing Chen not to cross
the red line. Diplomatic rhetoric can sound very
reserved, but one must read the meaning concealed
between the lines. Boucher is well-known for giving
moderate replies. But judging from his choice of
words, the context, his posture and the scene on the
spot, what the United States wanted to convey was
actually very clear."