Wednesday, August 31, 2011

J Michael hits a nerve

The old south wall at Anping Fort in Tainan.

J Michael Cole of the Taipei Times scored with a top-notch piece in the WSJ on how the Ma Administration's inability to clean house in its own military and intel ranks is impacting US willingness to sell Taipei weapons. An excerpt:
Much ink has been spilled in recent months over the Obama administration's reluctance to sell Taiwan the 66 F-16C/D fighters it has been requesting since 2007. A final decision is expected by Oct. 2, and while many observers predict that political considerations will lead Washington to nix the deal, another factor may be at work: the penetration of almost every sector of Taiwanese society by Chinese intelligence. For the U.S. government and defense manufacturers, any arms sale to Taiwan carries the risk that sensitive military technology will end up in Beijing.

This worry is not new. Anyone who has followed developments in Taiwan over the years knows how deeply Chinese forces have infiltrated Taiwan's military, especially its senior officers. For years American officials have looked on in amazement as newly retired Taiwanese generals traveled to China for a round of golf, were wined and dined by their counterparts in the People's Liberation Army, and no doubt had their inebriated brains picked for information.

Taiwan's reputation has not been helped by a string of embarrassing cases involving members of the armed forces or civilians who spied for China. Some of the programs compromised involved American assistance, such as the Po Sheng "Broad Victory" upgrade to the military's command and control infrastructure. Even more damaging are the instances when culprits got away with a light sentence. Earlier this year Lai Kun-chieh, a software engineer, received a mere slap on the wrist for attempting to pass information about the PAC-3 Patriot missile defense system to China.

Also puzzling is the apparent lack of coordination between border, airport, immigration, foreign affairs and defense agencies over the return to Taiwan this month of Ko-suen "Bill" Moo. Mr. Moo was a former top salesman for Lockheed Martin who was arrested in Miami in 2005 and sentenced to 6.5 years in jail for trying to sell, among other items, an entire F-16 engine to China. Taiwanese authorities failed to meet Mr. Moo at the airport on his arrival, despite being tipped off by the U.S., and haven't been able to track him down since. The 64-year-old, who was involved in the Po Sheng project, had close friends within the upper echelons of the Taiwanese air force. It is alleged that he was part of a small group within the Taiwanese Air Force known as the "gang of four," which included former Defense Minister Chen Chao-ming.
President Ma, recommended J Michael, needs to clean house. This problem has been festering for years and there has been little apparent progress. Anyone in Washington who wants to deny weapons sales to Taiwan can plausibly point to this issue as an excuse not to sell the island nation weapons.

The response, I've heard, has been quite intense. Reportedly the President himself was angered by the article and a KMT legislator said that Cole's work visa should be investigated. There was also some anger at the MND. It's hard to fathom why; whenever a Chinese spy is busted there is a flurry of articles saying that Chinese penetration of Taiwanese military and intelligence may affect its ability to procure advanced weapons. For example, from earlier this year when an ROC general was busted for schlepping secrets to China:
Taiwan has detained a major general on charges of providing military secrets to China, the defense ministry said Wednesday. Analysts said he may have compromised a vital military communications network that uses U.S. technology. The case is the most serious Taiwanese spy scandal in decades and could make the U.S. reluctant to share military technology with Taiwan
or from the Examiner:
However, Chinese penetration of ROC defenses is a concern to the United States and will likely be a factor in a decision whether or not to sell advanced F-16 fighter jets to the Chinese Nationalists exiled on Taiwan.
Etc etc etc. It's not like the effect of Chinese penetration of ROC security services wasn't known in the highest circles and it's not like it hasn't been said before. Recall this Lawrence Eyton piece from 2002 in the Asia Times on a similar spy case:
It also follows the release of an alarming statistic by the Ministry of National Defense according to which more than 3,000 former Taiwan military officers are now either doing business or working in "consultancies" in mainland China.
Apparently it's just not ok to draw attention to the problem in an essay length piece. Big loss of face, you know.

This also raises another issue: by not making an ostentatious attempt to clean house, is the Ma Administration, which doesn't want F-16s sold to Taiwan, deliberately handing Washington an excuse that would give it plausible deniability? Probably not; one should never attribute to maliciousness what can be explained by incompetence.
Daily Links:
  • Don Rogers, a great friend of Taiwan, discussed in his college newsletter
  • Rising cost of living slashes demand for adoptions.
  • Victoria Linchong still needs financing for her pro-Taiwan film. See here and here for more information. 
  • Economic weakness: SinoPac slashes forecast for growth to 4.7% this year.
  • Eyedoc posts some great comments from Andrew K on aboriginal marriages, the Koxinga clan, and intermixing in pre-Qing Taiwan. 
  • John Copper's piece in the National Interest on why the US needs Taiwan was picked up by Zack Beauchamp on Andrew Sullivan's blog. Zack, ya could have pointed out that Copper is a longtime supporter of the KMT and thus, while arguing that the US needs Taiwan, himself supports the party that wants to annex Taiwan to China. How's that again? BTW, for your question demanding evidence about why China would want to sail its subs off the coast of the US... please see recent history of Chinese warship sailings around Japan. Why should China want to sail in Japanese waters? And yet it does. Why does any expansionist state do what it does?
  • Taipei Bike Film Festival Seeking submissions
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.


david on formosa said...

The KMT are more sensitive to where things are published than what is actually published. If Cole had put the article in the Taipei Times then it probably would have attracted little attention. When the inconvenient truth is published by the Wall Street Journal or AP it's a different story.

DL said...

once again caring more about what the foreign media sees and thinks rather than the welfare and cries of their own people.

wasn't this the case for igniting the movement towards democracy in Taiwan in the 80s due to a piece in the NYT?

if this is the only claim that politicians found "untrue" then i guess all the other news, not all good, that have been written about the nation that have caused no outcry, sit just fine with the government here.

not going to split between the you me us them because apathy and silence is a stance - shame on Taiwan. the choices of the government is the reflection of the choice of the people who voted to get them there and let them stay - everyone that contributed needs to take the good and the bad.

Anonymous said...


''President Ma, recommended J Michael, needs to clean house. ''


''President Ma recommended J Michael needs to clean house.''

This is getting ugly. see Taipei Times story today on the KMT reactions and how they are calling for Cole's head and work permit rescinded if he cannot provide proof of what he alleged.

Anonymous said...

david on island formosa

re ...'' If Cole had put the article in the Taipei Times then it probably would have attracted little attention. When the inconvenient truth is published by the Wall Street Journal or AP it's a different story.''

In fact, he wrote similar things last week in the TT, one under his name and one as an unsigned lead editorial on Moo Man.

But you are right, because this appeared in the Ruper Murdoch owned WSJ and because the Liberty Times also ran the WSJ piece as if it was the voice of the WSJ talking and did not sign Cole's name in the Liberty Times piece, the KMT is howling.....this story has legs, as we say in the newsrooms of the world

Trevor Man, Uk, Cornwall
been there done that

Anonymous said...

Perfessor, notice even Victoria CAPS the word Aborigines here:

''When I first met Victoria Linchong in January 2010, she was busy travelling around Taiwan with her small video camera, doing interviews with Aborigines in Taitung and with former democracy activists in Taipei. She told me she was an actress from New York City, doing a documentary about her parents’ home – Taiwan.''

You need to start capping the word, too, stubborn nut that you are!

Anger Management Advisee 2

Michael Turton said...

ROFL. Do yourself a favor, anger manager. Read up on the titles for category nouns. This is now a closed subject.

Readin said...

@Anon "because this appeared in the Ruper Murdoch owned WSJ"

Do you think the fact that Rupert Murdoch owns the WSJ somehow makes the KMT more concerned about the article? Normally people don't mention the owner of a newspaper when talking about the newspaper unless the ownership is relevant somehow to the point they're making. But I wouldn't think Murdoch's ownership matters much here. Murdoch owns some news sources that are trashy tabloids and some that are mainstream with good reputations (like the WSJ).

Is it perhaps because Murdoch's wife is Chinese that you think the KMT cares so much about what one of his newspapers says about them?

Jason said...

Nice poster behind Chao Li-yun in the TT story. Something about not tolerating foreigners (in scary red characters!) doing something or rather?

It's a damn good thing foreigners are unable to read Chinese!

Robert Scott Kelly said...

The government cares because the WSJ is a major international publication and this kind of article can embarrass them on a wide scale. I had a travel piece on Yushan published two years ago in the WSJ and it was discussed on the local news for a day. It was even seen as controversial by some because I wrote how Yushan had once been a major symbol under Japanese rule but then faded for several decades as the KMT pushed a China-centric viewpoint on the population. UDN did a full translation except for that paragraph which they cut completely. So much of the blue establishment (not the rank and file) is composed of people who were all on the wrong side of martial law. Like most who have to cover their true feelings to get along in a free society they are thin-skinned and hyper-sensitive.

Tim Maddog said...

Jason, here's a clearer view of the poster behind Chao and company. The whole sentence at the bottom reads (translation mine):
- - -

Don't tolerate the idle talk of [scary] barbarians [who couldn't possibly understand anything Chinese-y]
- - -

In other words, "Only trust our [bullshit]."

Tim Maddog

Anonymous said...

This is why I am against arm sales to Taiwan. Even if the DPP is in power, I don't think they will be immune from the monetary charms.

The Taiwanese do not appreciate what the US provides for them on so many levels. I recall them bitching about visas to me, when I had to pay a special "foreigner" tax to their government and could not buy land legally here.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and that poster is another classic sign...did the KMT turn down any foreign help getting their butts over to Taiwan from the US Navy? Did they accept our money to do land reform? Did they accept our weapons and training before?

and I know there's a DPP bias here (no biggie) but I don't think they will be any wiser...see their issue on beef.