Thu, Sep 23, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Keyser case shows blurred relations

Although he was expected to take over the chairmanship of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), Donald Keyser, a former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, has suddenly been charged with secretly flying to Taiwan and passing documents to Taiwanese intelligence agents.

Since the case itself is extremely complex and the outside world knows little about it, local media have begun to sensationalize the personal relationship between Keyser and Isabella Cheng (程念慈), an intelligence agent from the National Security Bureau. Some outlets revealed much about Cheng's private life, and have even begun to pry into the life of her new husband, Chris Cockel. This forced Cockel plead with Taiwanese reporters in Washington to confirm their reports before running them, while complaining that the media's insinuation that his wife is having an affair with Keyser is unsubstantiated.

Cheng's husband is a journalist and Washington correspondent for The China Post. Ironically, he himself has now attracted the spotlight of the sensationalist reports from his unprofessional colleagues.

Meanwhile, some of the pro-China media have seized the chance and labelled Keyser as pro-Taiwan by citing anonymous sources. They even reported that during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's (溫家寶) visit to the US last November, Keyser in fact wrote a draft proposal for President George W. Bush in an attempt to influence his speech, to prevent Bush from speaking negatively of Taiwan. They also reported that Bush was angry when he read the proposal and promptly threw it in a trash can.

This eye witness-style report strongly suggests that Keyser is a spy for Taiwan. Suspicious reporting of this kind also tells us that Bush -- the leader of the world's most powerful country -- deals with important documents such as drafts from the State Department by simply throwing them away. If this story is true, then the spies that the US really has to watch out for are those working as White House janitors.

There is still much that remains unknown about this whole incident, but based on the testimony of his colleagues, Keyser has been a steadfast moderate on the Taiwan issue, favoring neither the [pro-China] red team nor the [pro-Taiwan] blue team in the US. As such, we find it hard to believe that Keyser would slip up at a time when his career is at its peak and he is looking forward to retirement. Further, there is no information available that proves Keyser has passed any secret documents to intelligence agents here.

From a pro-Taiwan perspective, we naturally think that the more supportive of Taiwan US officials are, the better. Taiwan and the US do not have formal diplomatic relations, but have a deep and substantive friendship. Both countries follow the rule of law, and the exchanges between their respective officials should also be confined by the law.

But since the relationship between officials from both countries relies heavily on mutual understanding and empathy, the line between legal and illegal practices is often vague. Difficulties are inevitable between Taiwan and the US -- two allies that maintain a relationship without official relations.

The Keyser case underlines the confused nature of the boundaries of the relationship between the US and Taiwan, which is often so unclear that even the most experienced diplomat can occasionally transgress them.

This story has been viewed 5103 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top