The huge cache of confidential US diplomatic cables that is being released by whistleblower Web site WikiLeaks is believed to include large numbers of secret memos exchanged between Taiwanese and US diplomatic officials, perhaps giving the public a firsthand look at the fragile relationship.
WikiLeaks currently holds a set of more than 250,000 documents from between December 1966 and February this year, but has only made 278 available to the public. None of the documents originating from the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the US’ de facto embassy in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties, has been released.
The site expects that all the documents will be released in stages over the next few months. So far, the vast majority of these cables have been seen by only a handful of media organizations in the US and Europe. WikiLeaks says it holds more than 4,000 US records on Taiwan. Of that number, about half are said to be unclassified and about 200 are “secret,” with the rest being “confidential.”
WikiLeaks said the value of diplomatic cables in its possession from the AIT ranked below Baghdad and Japan, but surprisingly above Moscow and Beijing.
The AIT’s high level of communication suggests that the US diplomatic presence in Taiwan continues to be extensive and far-reaching, despite being unofficial in nature.
It is expected that the cables will include previously unpublished information on US arms sales to Taiwan and information on Beijing’s attitude toward the policies of the Taiwanese government, especially the China-friendly economic strategy of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
Political assessments of Ma, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and other Taiwanese political, diplomatic and military leaders, as well as economic forecasts for Taiwan, are also believed to be included in the cables.
Evidence of this can already be seen in the limited number of cables released.
A secret file originating in the US embassy in Beijing notes that Taiwan’s participation as an observer in last year’s World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO’s -decision-making body, was based on a “one China, very broadly interpreted” principle.
The information was apparently gathered through a discussion between former US charge d’affaires Dan Piccuta and a Chinese official, who is not named in the document.
Apparently quoting the Chinese official, the cable, dated April last year, says: “The agreement allowing Taiwan to participate as an observer at the WHA meetings in Geneva in May was ‘one step forward’ toward better Cross-Strait relations and demonstrated what could be achieved through consultations based on ‘one China, very broadly interpreted.’”
The same cable also mentions Beijing’s recognition of Taiwan and Tibet as part of its “core interests.”
An issue that could “derail” relations, again apparently quoting the Chinese official, was US arms sales to Taiwan, including Chinese concerns that the US could sell advanced F-16C/D fighter aircraft, for which Taiwan has been lobbying.
Separately, on the issue of arms sales, another secret cable from the US embassy in Ankara, Turkey, notes that in January this year, the US was considering whether to ask Taiwan to aid Turkey in its counterinsurgency efforts by -leasing some of its attack helicopters. It implies that the US and Taiwan still maintain high-level military contacts.