Sat, Apr 16, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Put the screws to the blues

One of the greatest contradictions in Washington's policy toward Taiwan is that it has interfered in elections consistently to the benefit of the pan-blue camp, despite its strategic interests lying unequivocally with the pan-green camp. US President George W. Bush's condemnation of Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) for changing the "status quo" in December 2003 can only be interpreted as a move by the Bush administration to sink Chen's re-election chances -- one which luckily failed.

It appears that Washington strategists decided that its criticism came too early, so in December they waited until the last minute to play their spoiler. This time, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli condemned Chen's plans to change the name of Taiwan's offices abroad, a proposal which had been a highlight of the last week of Chen's election campaign.

On this occasion Washington was more successful: The pan-greens failed to win a predicted majority of seats in the legislature. Given that the principal concern of the Bush administration is, and has been for some time, that Taiwan pass the NT$480 billion (US$15.13 billion) special arms budget, which the pan-blue camp has resolutely opposed, Washington clearly scored a spectacular own goal.

There is little glee in finger-pointing. The concern now is to undo the damage that has been done to the interests of both Taiwan and the US. But how?

Purely domestic solutions have been tried and so far have failed. The so-called agreement between Chen and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) on Feb. 24 contained a joint commitment to do what was necessary to strengthen Taiwan's defensive capabilities. Anyone who thought this meant the PFP would vote for the arms budget was mistaken, because the party remains as resolutely opposed as its Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) ally.

It had been hoped that the sheer outrageousness of Beijing's "Anti-Secession" Law last month would shame the pan-blue camp into giving the arms budget the nod. Instead, they have refused to let the budget bill advance to the committee stage in the legislature on three occasions.

Meanwhile, the KMT continues to court Beijing. KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) yearns to go to a place where he will be treated like the president that he, in his delusional state, thinks he is -- whether the misguided voters of Taiwan recognize this or not. How much of the KMT's behavior is simple madness, how much is treacherous knavery and how much is shrewd political calculation is hard to say. But it is obvious that the KMT will not let the arms budget pass if this means -- as it inevitably will -- a cooling in relations across the Strait.

As usual, some in the US have been blaming Chen for not "pushing" the issue far enough. This is plainly ridiculous: Putting the budget to the legislature three times in one month can hardly be called dilatory. The truth is that the government has done all it can and is at the point of recognizing that there can be no movement on this issue while Lien remains KMT chairman, which means no movement until August at the earliest.

Domestic solutions have failed. It is now up to Washington to exert pressure from afar. As to how this can be done, let us remind our American friends that the interests of the pan-blue leaders and legislators in the US are extensive, and comings and goings across the Pacific frequent. The obvious solution is to deny entry to the US to those who would frustrate US policy -- until they see the error of their ways. A refused visa here, a refused entry there -- it can be subtle yet pointed, and it will definitely hurt. And in a post-Sept. 11 security climate, no explanation need be given.

This story has been viewed 3594 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top