Wed, Aug 20, 2008 - Page 8 News List


Why so forthcoming?

I am shocked by how forthcoming Taipei prosecutors have been in providing the public with details about an investigation that has just begun. This raises the following questions:

First, is it not illegal in Taiwan for a prosecutor to disclose private information about an ongoing case, in which charges have yet to be lain?

Second, did the Swiss Assistant Federal Prosecutor Graziella de Falco Haldemann agree to and authorize Taipei authorities to reveal that she is working with Taipei prosecutor Ching Chi-jen (慶啟人) on a “money laundering” case?

Third, has de Falco Haldemann actually stated that the case involves “money laundering” and did she permit the Taipei authorities to give her name as a source in the investigation?

It would be interesting to hear Ching’s and de Falco Haldemann’s answers to these questions.



Avoiding a deep freeze

Recent remarks pertaining to US arms sales to Taiwan by officials in Taiwan and the US have been contradictory and may have blurred the picture.

What seems clear, however, is that Washington has at least mulled the possibility of a “temporary freeze.”

Equally clear is that in this three-way tug-of-war on arming Taiwan, Beijing’s resolve is pitted against Washington’s ambivalence and President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) hidden agenda, a mix that could very well result in a temporary freeze becoming permanent.

A freeze could stem from the belief that the rationale for strengthening Taiwan’s defenses — as cited a few months ago in the Pentagon’s Annual Report on Military Power of the People’s Republic of China — has disappeared, or from Washington having found an alternative accommodation for Taiwan.

However, Taipei’s efforts to diminish tensions and, in the process, Ma’s abrogation of Taiwan’s sovereignty have not resulted in a diminution of China’s military threat to Taiwan. The missile threat against Taiwan has reportedly continued to grow both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Despite the Taiwan Relations Act, Taiwan’s democracy could easily lose out to US strategic and economic interests, which would have an impact on Washington’s arms sales to Taiwan.

Were it not for international economic considerations, Taiwan — once a key link in the US Western Pacific strategic chain of democracies — would be relegated by the freeze to a land that must be kept out of Beijing’s hands lest the Chinese military use it as a base for force projection in the Pacific.

Commercial interests, the equivalent of a life jacket for Taiwan, are what Ma seems to be trying to remove, as if he were intent on diminishing Taiwan’s importance to the US. Ma is on his way to lifting practically all restrictions on exporting sensitive technologies to China, with an eye to relocating Taiwan’s high-tech industries there.

Under such circumstances, turmoil in Taiwan — even to the extent that it would preclude its use as a military base for either China or the US — would pose little threat to international trade, which is essential to China’s survival and US economic health.

Perhaps this scenario is what Beijing and Washington have in mind, in which case an arms freeze would make sense. The scandals surrounding former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) could make such an outcome more feasible.

Ma recently reclassified as “open source” all the documents that Chen had classified to shield himself from prosecution stemming from his alleged misappropriation of “state affairs funds.” This was followed by the unreeling of Chen’s possible improprieties involving multi-million dollar foreign account deposits.

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