The government is bracing for a media storm once WikiLeaks releases the 4,000 or so diplomatic cables it says it has that relate to Taiwan. The sheer number of documents sent between the US Department of State and the American Institute in Taiwan — WikiLeaks declared that the value of the cables relating to Taiwan outranked those from Moscow and Beijing — testifies to how deep relations between the US and Taiwan still are.
WikiLeaks has yet to reveal any surprising diplomatic cables regarding cross-strait relations. So far, we’ve seen that China continues to strenuously object to US arms sales to Taiwan, something that comes as no surprise given Beijing’s knee-jerk reaction every time the US sells anything from screwdrivers to radar systems to the Taiwanese military. Nor was it surprising when a Chinese official said Taiwan’s participation as an observer in last year’s World Health Assembly, the WHO’s decision-making body, came about because of the principle of “one China, very broadly interpreted.” Of course Beijing would only allow Taiwan into international organizations under the “one China” principle. That’s what they’ve been saying openly for years.
However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The government is showing how seriously it is taking the potential fallout of the leaks by appointing Deputy Minister of National Defense Andrew Yang (楊念祖) to spearhead a team tasked with following the leaks and analyzing and verifying any details related to Taiwan. Although Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) downplayed the accuracy of the documents, saying not all of them were “necessarily true,” his appointment of Yang casts doubt on his sincerity.
WikiLeaks has already revealed a number of surprising diplomatic twists with its latest batch of released cables. For instance, who would have guessed that China was so ready to accept a reunified Korea under a government based in Seoul? It’s obvious from the cables that China’s leadership is fed up with the brinkmanship of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, especially because the one thing Beijing craves is stability to give it time to develop its economy and military. Former Chinese deputy foreign minister He Yafei (何亞飛) was even quoted as saying that Pyongyang was acting like a “spoiled child.” The cables also reveal that China has much less influence over the North than previously thought.
With revelations of that magnitude out of the Korean Peninsula, what can be expected regarding Taiwan? Already, there is much speculation that the cables will cover political assessments of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and other political, diplomatic and military leaders, as well as economic forecasts for the nation. Might they also contain a candid US assessment of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) or US military assessments of Taiwan’s chances in a cross-strait conflict?
Of the cables so far released relating to Taiwan, probably the most important is the one detailing a private meeting between US officials and former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀), in which Lee says China is using economic means to force reunification with Taiwan. Lee describes Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) as a pragmatic man who doesn’t mind waiting 10 to 30 years for economic ties to cement Taiwan in a Chinese bear hug.