Wed, Feb 16, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Ex-NSC official warns on ‘overreaction’ to spy case

By J. Michael Cole  /  Staff Reporter

A former National Security Council (NSC) official yesterday said Taipei needs to be very careful about how it responds to a major espionage case involving China lest it impact other issues.

Philip Yang (楊永明), a senior adviser at the NSC from 2008 until last year and now a professor of political science at National Taiwan University, told the Taiwan Foreign Correspondents’ Club that the arrest last month of General Lo Hsien-che (羅賢哲) on espionage charges served as a reminder that despite warming relations across the Taiwan Strait, in the military and intelligence spheres, “Taiwan and China remain locked in a Cold War mindset.”

However, despite the seriousness of the charges against Lo — whose actions since he began spying for China in 2004 could have severely compromised Taiwan’s national security and its ties with the US military — Yang said President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration should choose its response carefully to avoid “overspill.”

Asked by the Taipei Times if Taipei could perhaps retaliate by canceling a visit to Taiwan next week by Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), Yang said the controversy should not be linked to other areas of engagement with China, adding that escalation could have “domestic implications.”

So far, the Ma administration has yet to officially complain to Beijing over the Lo incident and China’s refusal to draw down its military posture. This silence is in stark contrast to the way in which Taipei reacted to a decision by the Philippines earlier this month to deport, at Beijing’s request, 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China despite opposition by Taiwanese officials.

Given the severity of the case, Taipei’s muted response is also at odds with its reaction to comments by former Japanese representative to Taiwan Masaki Saito in 2009 to the effect that Taiwan’s status remained “unresolved,” sparking calls by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators that he be expelled. Saito, who resigned over the comments and returned to Japan in December that year, was in the interim treated by Taiwanese officials as more or less persona non grata.

In June 2008, amid a dispute over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), Taiwan recalled its envoy to Japan and the “w-word” (war) was bandied about by top officials in Taipei.

Asked why, when it came to Japan and the Philippines, Taipei adopted a muscular diplomatic posture and deliberately linked incidents to other unrelated areas — in the Philippines’ case stricter reviews of applications by Filipinos seeking to work in Taiwan and unspecified “measures” — while Beijing did not appear to ever suffer the consequences of its belligerent actions, Yang was noncommittal.

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