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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05TAIPEI2596 2005-06-13 10:29:00 SECRET American Institute Taiwan, Taipei
Cable title:  

TAIWAN POLICY ELITES DIVIDED OVER FUTURE CONTACTS

Tags:   PREL PGOV PINR CH TW 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
					  S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TAIPEI 002596 

SIPDIS

STATE PASS AIT/W

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2015
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR CH TW
SUBJECT: TAIWAN POLICY ELITES DIVIDED OVER FUTURE CONTACTS
WITH BEIJING

REF: A. TAIPEI 2565

B. TAIPEI 2521

C. TAIPEI 2479

Classified By: AIT Director Douglas Paal, Reason: 1.4 (B/D)



1. (S) Summary: Taiwan National Security Council (NSC) Senior
Advisor for cross-Strait affairs Chen Chung-hsin asserted
that senior policymakers remain deeply skeptical over
Beijing's willingness to engage in official discussions with
the Taiwan government. Chen told former U.S. NSC Asia
Director Bob Suettinger that he personally disagrees with
this assessment, but thus far has been unable to convince
more senior policymakers otherwise. Chen offered his
assessment that PRC President Hu Jintao's activism on
cross-Strait policy over the past several months was aimed at
solidifying his own internal political base rather than
weakening Taiwan's government. Despite the generally
negative view held by senior NSC officials and the Taiwan
intelligence community, there are signs that President Chen
Shui-bian is personally more optimistic over PRC flexibility
and is actively seeking to open a direct communications
channel with the Hu Jintao administration. Chen's efforts
have provoked concerns among many Pan-Green policy
specialists that Chen's eagerness to visit Beijing before
leaving office may distract attention from more pragmatic
working level cross-Strait contacts. End Summary.

The Cup Half Empty


--------------------------





2. (S) During a private meeting with visiting former NSC Asia
Director Bob Suettinger Taiwan NSC Senior Advisor Chen
Chung-hsin expressed disagreement with the Taiwan NSC's
generally negative assessment of recent PRC actions. Chen
said that analysis provided to (and thus far accepted by) the
NSC from Taiwan's National Security Bureau (NSB) has
consistently portrayed recent PRC actions, including the
Anti-Secession Law (ASL) and invitation to opposition party
leaders, as aimed at isolating the Democratic Progressive
Party (DPP) government and weakening Taiwan's internal
cohesion. Chen said that this assessment does not track with
his own soundings among Mainland experts or his assessment of
current PRC internal dynamics. Chen blamed the NSB's
over-reliance on unreliable classified intelligence sources
and the DPP's natural distrust of PRC motives for the current
negative view of Beijing among top officials, including NSC
Secretary General Chiou I-jen. However, he also noted that

SIPDIS
clumsy PRC handling of its relationship with the Pan-Blue and
poor PR work have also fueled suspicions within Taiwan.

Minority Report


--------------------------





3. (C) Chen said he will continue to press for a reassessment
of Taiwan's assumptions on PRC actions, arguing that Hu's
recent internal successes present a unique, and limited,
opportunity for real cross-Strait progress. Chen said that
it is his understanding that PRC hard-liners, especially
within the People's Liberation Army (PLA), viewed the final
text of the ASL as a major victory for PRC moderates,
including Hu. Chen noted that, in contrast to his
predecessor, Hu appears to be trying to spread responsibility
for decisions on Taiwan policy to a wide segment of the power
structure in order to minimize risk to his own power base.
In addition to codifying the PRC's cross-Strait policy via
the ASL, Hu has also made sure that all of the nine members
of the CCP's Politburo, not just those on the Taiwan Leading
Group, receive official reports on Taiwan policy. Chen said
that Hu is thus far succeeding in his delicate balancing act
of keeping control over the pace of PRC economic reform, but
he is well aware that any external incident could bring the
whole house down. Chen added that one normally
ultra-nationalistic quasi-official scholar contact of his
recently admitted that the PRC economy and the Communist
Party's grip on power could not survive a military
confrontation in the Taiwan Strait.



4. (C) In a separate meeting, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC)
Chief Secretary Jan Jyh-horng offered a similar assessment
over the domestic drivers of Beijing's Taiwan policy. Jan
noted that Hu is aware that his legitimacy could be
challenged at any time by forces within and outside of the
Communist Party power structure. Jan said that senior Public
Security Bureau (PSB) officials told Taiwan journalists in
May that the media coverage of KMT Chairman Lien Chan's visit
saved them from a possible crisis over how to handle
anti-Japanese protests around the country. Jan said that PRC
officials told reporters that they were close to losing
control over the anti-Japan protests, stating that the PSB
would not dare resort to the same tough tactics employed in
the past to put down nationalist protests. Jan cited this
example to emphasize that, despite appearances, stable
cross-Strait relations are as important to the PRC
leadership's internal cohesion as they are for the Chen
administration.

President Taking His Own Course?


--------------------------





5. (S) Perhaps for different reasons, President Chen himself
appears to be taking a similarly upbeat assessment of Hu
Jintao and is seeking avenues to move ahead on cross-Strait
contacts. In late May, former KMT Premier Vincent Siew told
the AIT Director that President Chen asked to see him for the
first time in over a year to solicit advice on how to open
dialogue with Beijing. Former NSC Deputy SecGen Chang
Jung-feng told AIT he was asked on May 11 by Presidential
Office Deputy SecGen (and close Chen confidante) Ma
Yung-cheng to help the President secure a communications
channel to Beijing. Chang, who formerly managed backchannel
communications with the PRC for both Presidents Chen and Lee
Teng-hui, told AIT that he declined Ma's request, citing the
risk that Chen would do or say something that would derail
the initiative and then blame Chang for it. Chang noted that
when he suggested that the President assign the mission to
NSC SecGen Chiou, Ma reacted negatively. Chang said that
this was the first time he had seen Ma express reservations
over Chiou's reliability. He added that Ma was scathing of
MAC Chair Joseph Wu's inability to lead (or even follow)
cross-Strait policy.



6. (S) Chang echoed concerns expressed by other Pan-Green
policy officials (especially members of Chiou's New Tide
faction) over Chen's rumored eagerness to seek a major
political breakthrough in his second term in office. Chang
said he urged Ma not to start contacts with Beijing by
pushing for an agreement on a Chen visit. "There needs to be
a process leading up to high level direct contacts," Chang
said, "but I worry that Chen is putting the summit meeting
first." Institute for National Policy Research (INPR)
Executive Director Lo Chih-cheng told the AIT Director that
while Chen clearly wants to visit Beijing, Chen has no real
options for securing PRC approval short of using the USG as a
matchmaker. Over the past two weeks, Chen himself has
publicly urged the United States to play an active role in
establishing official contacts. Chen's public appeals
notwithstanding, Lo discounted both Washington's willingness
to play the role of active intermediary and the possibility
that Beijing would take the risk of engaging Chen directly.

Comment: Differing Interpretations


--------------------------





7. (C) Chen Chung-hsin's assessment of the current thinking
inside of the NSC on cross-Strait policy tracks with formal
policy decisions being made by the Taipei government.
Despite promises that Taipei would move quickly with
cross-Strait economic liberalization following the May 14
National Assembly (NA) election, the government has spent
most of its effort trying to dampen the "China fever" created
by the Lien/Soong visits, throwing up barriers to recent PRC
initiatives on fruit, pandas, and tourism (Reftels).
Nevertheless, recent feelers by President Chen and his close
political aides suggest that the President himself is more
forward leaning on PRC policy than his top cross-Strait
advisors are. Public statements notwithstanding, President
Chen has thus far not formally asked for the USG to play an
active role in establishing direct channels to Beijing.
However, if his attempts to use intermediaries like Siew and
Chang fail to produce results, Chen may ask for a more active
U.S. role in cross-Strait contacts.
PAAL