Sat, May 28, 2011 - Page 8 News List

The diplomatic games they play

By J. Michael Cole 寇謐將

That said, the problems in Washington are manifest. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) as a lobbying body is reportedly in near disarray, with good officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but no strategy. On arms sales particularly, TECRO officials have not been identifying the right decision making nodes — US Senate and House committees addressing armed services and foreign affairs are at the top of the list — in the system and working them with the right message.

Incompetence notwithstanding, there reportedly are signs of progress. Taiwan is said to have put together three-man teams composed of foreign ministry and Ministry of National Defense officials working together on arms sales and are predominantly used to brief staff on Capitol Hill on specific needs — such as F-16C/Ds — as well as long-term trends.

Lack of progress on the fighter aircraft and submarines is not necessarily the result of cynical politics. Rather, it is more likely a mixture of bureaucratic incompetence on both sides and very difficult US-Taiwan-China circumstances in Washington that have been heading in this direction since 2006. It could be said that by not rattling the cage of the Taiwan Strait, Ma has been a model leader for US President Barack Obama’s administration, and yet Washington has not reciprocated with moves that could be helpful to his re-election campaign.

The reason? It’s all about the context.

J. Michael Cole is deputy news editor at the Taipei Times.

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