Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday Strays

On this bitterly cold day, some light reading....

WorldNetDaily has a report on the Taiwan-Iran nuclear parts pipeline. WND is part of the right-wing noise machine, so take with grain of salt:
British MI6 intelligence agency investigators have discovered Iran has set up a new smuggling network in Taiwan to obtain specialized equipment used for the production of nuclear weapons, according to a report from Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin.

Insiders report Iran has established companies to buy the equipment on the world markets and then smuggle it into Tehran.

The purchases have involved pressure transducers, which are used to produce weapons-grade uranium, and Secret Intelligence Service officers have established that nuclear scientists from Tehran have held meetings in Taiwan's capital, Taipei, to buy the units.

The equipment is stored by the companies in a high-security area on the island.

The companies are fronted by local Chinese businessmen, and MI6 officers believe some of them have worked in China's own nuclear industry before moving to Taiwan. The intelligence officers have also traced bank accounts held by the businessmen to banks in the Cayman Islands.
That last paragraph reads as if it is Chinese, not Taiwanese, businessmen who are involved in this project, using Taiwan as a conduit.

CSIS has a short five page commentary from an anonymous writer for the Freeman Report, on cross-strait prospects. Aside from its propagandistic first paragraph, it's a fairly reasonable review, especially for a CSIS paper, of the options and probable outcomes:
At some point, Beijing may perceive its military advantage to be so overwhelming that it cannot conceive of the U.S. actually being willing to intervene militarily to prevent reunification. At this point, it is likely to begin applying pressure on Taiwan to start political talks. To further dissuade the U.S. against intervention, Beijing will characterize its pressure on Taiwan as “peaceful” in nature, i.e., it does not intend to use force but simply wants Taiwan to agree to start talks.
It is interesting that we keep reading about "falling tensions" in the Taiwan Strait but at the same time, everyone is speculating about how long Beijing will wait before it begins serious military pressure on Taiwan. The cross-strait relationship is not one of falling tensions, merely one of tensions interrupted -- as well as tensions displaced to other areas around China's borders.

The Wilson Center has a bunch of Taiwan related stuff up now. First is an excellent piece on Taiwan's economy in the global economic storm. The second is a dialogue involving four commentators on ethnicity and politics in Taiwan, including Melissa Brown and Stephen Goldstein. A description of the latter:
According to Goldstein, a number of factors influence the discussion of identity and cross-Strait relations in Taiwan. Older supporters of independence are dying off. At the same time, neither advocates of independence nor those of unification have the majority, and maintaining the status quo has become the dominant theme in managing the relationship with the mainland. The balance of opinion in Taiwan therefore lies predominantly with the pragmatists. Goldstein explained that young Taiwanese are attracted to the mainland as a vibrant, “happening” place. While there may be new understandings about what it means to be Taiwanese, this attraction to the mainland suggests that there will be little support for de jure independence in the near future.
That's been my perception too.

Finally, today's Taipei Times with an interview with DPP Chair Tsai Ing-wen. A slice:
LT: What are the DPP’s mid and long-term objectives and plans, in terms of party development?

Tsai: The DPP has made significant progress over the last few years, but that is not to say that there are not some areas in which we can improve as a party. We need to build more trust among the public and make them believe that they can really hand the reins of the country back to us.

I don’t think it right to discuss too far into the future. Having said that, there are three things I would like the DPP to achieve before 2012. First, I would like to see us win at least three posts in the 2010 special municipality elections.

The places we win will form the foundation of our bid for victory in 2012, and I would like at least one in the north and north central areas. Second, the party needs to produce a comprehensive and complete set of political ideas and policies, to show what we stand for.

We want to present ourselves to the public again, but they are going to be asking us where we want to take the country. They will be asking us what we have, policy wise, to offer as an alternative to President Ma Ying-jeou’s policies. We cannot rely on the superstars within the party, or hope that the KMT are going to slip up, if we want to win the election. It is imperative that we can provide some kind of vision of how we want to see Taiwan develop, if we are going to win the people’s trust.
Don't forget, the DPP is rallying on Sunday ahead of PRC negotiator Chen Yun-lin's visit. Go here for more information.
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