Thursday, February 07, 2013

Ma's Surprising Envoy to the US makes surprising remarks

I'm off on a bike vacation, but I've got my computer with me so I can combine both my addictions. No sooner do I leave than the new Big Man in Washington, King Pu-tsun, Ma's hatchet man, longtime personal friend, and personal appointment as the ROC/Taiwan emissary to the US, makes some surprising statements in a surprising interview with AFP:
We have our own pragmatic approach to survive," said the envoy who cannot call himself ambassador, as the United States broke formal ties with Taiwan in 1979 when it recognised China.

"We need strong support from the United States, but we also have to deal cautiously with mainland China because now they are the number one partner of Taiwan," he added.

"It is a very strategic ambiguity that we have. It is the best shield we have."
King's weird flow of verbiage is a good example of the way Taiwanese grab catch phrases from the vast pool of media commentary and redeploy them (a common one is 'win-win'). "Strategic ambiguity" has long been the phrase to describe the US' position on Taiwan. It reads as if King is signaling a new turn in which Taiwan (further) distances itself from the US. But King denied this and said that he was not translated properly -- a common tactic when Deep Blue politicians become too open about their goals and feelings. King's reverse of this went (Taipei Times)...
King said the “strategic ambiguity” to which AFP referred during the interview did not refer to the trilateral relationship among Taiwan, China and the US, but rather to only the relationship between Taiwan and China.

In a Washington-datelined report earlier in the day titled “Surprise Envoy Protects Taiwan’s ‘Shield’ of Ambiguity,” AFP said that during the interview, King highlighted the importance of the “strategic ambiguity” that Taiwan maintains with China on one side and its protector, the US, on the other.

In a statement, King said his “strategic ambiguity” refers to cross-strait relations, which are handled based on the so-called “1992 consensus” between Taiwan and China, according to which there is only one China, with each side free to interpret what the phrase means.
As the Taipei Times makes clear, he originally was referring to the US-China-Taiwan relationship. Of course, we all know which side Ma is allied with, so King's further distancing fits Ma's policy quite well. Note in the article King follows that with a comment on how Chen Shui-bian damaged US-Taiwan relations, which he is there to repair!

Looks like King was sending out a major trial balloon, which sank like a stone, but he is not. Rather, he's setting out the survey stakes to show where the road is going to go. Also note that he twice gets in the word pragmatic, a staple of the "I'm pragmatic, you're ideological" KMT propaganda campaign against the DPP and of course, another favorite catchword. There was nothing pragmatic about King's remarks. For more on King, see this 2009 post.

MEDIA: AFP positioned King's remarks as part of what appears to be a highly slanted presentation that represents an all-out attack on US support of Taiwan...such a slant appears to be par for the course for AFP. The article first claims that US arms sales hurt relations with China, a staple of Beijing propaganda:
That ambiguity does not help counter US observers who say Taiwan has become a "strategic liability" because of the harm that US arms sales to Taiwan -- about US$180 billion since 2008 -- does to relations with China.
...and then referring to Richard Bush's recent paper:
According to Richard Bush, a former head of the US mission in Taiwan and now director of the Brookings Institution's Centre for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, some US "observers believe that Taiwan has become a strategic liability" so the United States should stop arming Taiwan.

The doubters include Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter, and Bill Owens, a retired admiral who was a vice chairman of the US chiefs of staff.

"They echo Chinese diplomats who argue that our arms sales are the major obstacle to good US-China relations," Bush said in a policy paper for Brookings released last month.
Note that no names of individuals wishing to sustain strong US support of Taiwan are mentioned. Instead we get Bill Owens, the American spokesman for that disgusting Remains of the Day-style sellout called the Sanya Initiative (here), and Brzezinski -- I'll leave it to you to find his Beijing connection, but see this old post. AFP does the usual international media move of leaving out the context and instead presenting the two names as if they are neutral and informed commentators. Ah, media ethics, now just a quaint marker of an earlier, lost time, like those gigantic sideburns in civil war officer photos.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did you see the printed "correction" of this interview in today's TT (2/9)re "strategic ambiguity"?

It's not a good sign that a "diplomat" needs to offer a public correction!