Reference ID : 05TAIPEI2433

Created : 2005-06-03 13:24

Released :2011-08-30 01:44

Classification : CONFIDENTIAL

Origin: American Institute Taiwan, Taipei


1.(c) summary: Taiwan coast guard minister Syu Huei-You met with AIT director june 3 to request USG assistance over recent suspected PRC incursions around the disputed Pratas island, currently occupied by Taiwan. Syu provided background on the recent incident involving Taiwan coast guard vessels and PRC survey ships and asserted that Taipei expects further PRC actions in the near future. Syu noted that Taiwan will resist efforts by Beijing to encroach in the area, noting that PRC exploration in the disputed East China Sea has effectively marginalized Taiwan's ability to enforce its EEZ claims there. The director registered concern over the lack of prior U.S.-Taiwan coordination over the incident, and offered to establish a more regular system for sharing information on activities in the region. AIT separately asked the Taiwan National Security Council (NSC) to improve internal policy coordination and communications with the USG over Taiwan navy/coast guard operations in the disputed Pratas island region. End summary.


2.(c) AIT director paal met with Taiwan coast guard minister dr. Syu Huei-You at Syu,s short-notice request on 3 june. Syu was accompanied by deputy minister James You Chian-Tshiz and other senior coast guard officials and staff members. The director was accompanied by AIT/t political, economic, and liaison affairs section officers.


3.(c) Syu began the meeting by presenting the director with a document titled 'Expel china's surveying ship,' dated 3 Jun


4.(c)He then described the current situation in the Pratas (DongSha) island area, which he characterized as one of increasing operational intensity in the area with PRC survey ships supporting oil exploration operations and encroachment by PRC fisherman (specific details to be reported septel). He specifically highlighted last week's incident during which initial information passed to AIT indicated that the Taiwan coast guard might attempt to board the PRC survey vessel Fengdou no. 4. Syu stated that attempts to communicate through the quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF)-Association For Relations Across the strait (ARATS) channel to have the survey ships vacate the area had gone unanswered, and resulted in a need for the coast guard to be more forceful in expelling these PRC ships. Syu said that if Taiwan does not expel these ships, then they will continue to come back. However, said Syu, forceful actions on Taiwan's part could provoke an incident, possibly involving official maritime assets.


5.(c) In response to Syu,s remarks, the AIT director expressed concern about the potential for further incidents given signs of an increasing willingness to enforce its claims over disputed waters in the south and east china seas. The director asked Syu what he was seeking from the united states. Syu responded that perhaps the USG could use some channel with the PRC to address these conditions. The director noted to Syu the AIT impression that Taiwan's internal communication and coordination on this issue was lacking. Syu responded that he felt the internal coordination was fine, but that perhaps some of the communication with AIT was misunderstood since information had to pass through several hands. He outlined that the mainland affairs council (mac) had made the initial contact with AIT, and that internally MND and others have communication channels with the coast guard and with the national security council. In response to the director's concerns over warnings made on may 27 about boarding the PRC vessels, Syu asserted that Taiwan had simply been 'posturing' on the issue of boarding. If the PRC ships had not left by the Taiwan-given deadline, then the coast guard would have used 'countermeasures' so that the survey ship could not conduct its work. Syu concluded these comments saying that in the future the coast guard could communicate directly with AIT.


6.(c) In response to Syu's question on the director's views concerning why the PRC is pressing these activities at this time, the director said there are a number of different theories, many related to internal dynamics within the PRC. The director then put a proposal on the table, noting this was a local idea that has not yet been vetted by Washington, for a Taiwan coast guard team to visit the u.s. coast guard in Honolulu for a broad-based visit and briefings on issues and areas of concern. This visit might also include a subsidiary element that involves USPACOM briefings. Minister Syu readily endorsed this concept and the director said that AIT would move forward to obtain Washington concurrence in this proposal and coordinate such a visit. In the meantime, AIT needed to establish direct liaison with the coast guard and a liaison affairs section visit to the coast guard operations center was requested for next week to begin the process.


NSC promises to do better


7.(c) AIT separately raised the recent Pratas incident with NSC deputy secretary general Henry Ko, noting the need for closer coordination with the USG on the issue. Ko acknowledged that there had been no formal internal interagency meetings over the PRC activities in the Pratas but said that NSC Secgen Chiou I-Jen has called for such a meeting next week. Ko said that the NSC will establish a policy-level channel to discuss Taiwan's reactions to PRC activities in the south and east china seas to supplement the technical channel proposed by the Taiwan coast guard. Ko said that the NSC first became aware of the problem in the Pratas islands after Syu asked Chiou in writing to press the Taiwan navy to help reinforce coast guard elements on the island (note: the Taiwan navy turned over control of the Pratas island facility to the coast guard in 2002. End note.) Ko said the navy had refused to send warships citing the potential for a confrontation with pla navy elements.


Comment: Coast guard setting policy agenda


8.(c) Despite Syu,s admonitions to the contrary, it is clear that the Taiwan authorities' internal communications and coordination on this latest incident was decidedly lacking. For instance, mnd had no knowledge whatsoever of the coast guard's stated intent (passed to AIT through the mainland affairs council) to board the Fengdou nr. 4 nor were they aware of the coast guard's alternative threat to board the two fishing vessels as conveyed to AIT rso on may 27. In a broader sense, it also appears clear to us that Taiwan has not yet really thought through how to respond to these PRC 'encroachments.' As a further consideration, if the Taiwan coast guard is directed to respond to further PRC survey ship operations by conducting disruption operations or, as a last resort, by boarding, then how does that potentially affect u.s. survey ship operations in the area? AIT will continue to press Taiwan's NSC to establish policy guidance on such incidents that will take into consideration Taipei's broader interests, including the need to avoid a conflict at sea. We also believe a visit to Honolulu could be very valuable not only in providing information at more technical levels, but by providing the Taiwan coast guard with a much broader regional view and the broader u.s. policy concerns.




9.(c) The lack of policy coordination is likely in large part due to the personality of coast guard minister Syu. Syu is a controversial figure in Cross-Strait policy circles. A hold over from the Lee Teng-Hui administration, many current Taiwan officials blame Syu's actions as sef secretary general following the 1999 "state-to-state" incident for Beijing's decision to sever contacts between sef and its PRC counterpart. Based in part on that episode, Syu is viewed by many inside the chen administration as a loose cannon hardliner. His tenure at sef under the chen administration was marked by friction with then-MAC chair Tsai Ing-Wen and NSC Secgen Chiou. Syu's 2004 appointment as coast guard minister was interpreted by many cross-strait insiders as an attempt to sideline Syu from the PRC policy process.


10.(c) This background and Syu's own actions in the recent episode over the Pratas raises questions about Syu's current agenda. In April, former NSC secgen chang jung-feng recommended that AIT seek a briefing from Syu on a series of incidents involving coast guard personnel and PRC entities on Pratas island, but Syu's office did not agree to the meeting until several days before Taiwan took action against the PRC research vessel in late may. Syu was likely responsible for the decision to inform AIT of Taiwan's may 27 move against the PRC vessel via mac senior secretary Jan Jyh-Horng rather than through more standard diplomatic or military channels. Jan served as Syu's deputy at SEF for nearly five years and the two have maintained cordial relations despite Jan's ties with Syu rivals Chiou and Tsai.


11.(c) Action request. Request Washington concurrence in a Taiwan coast guard visit to Honolulu and to USPACOM, program details and timing to be determined.


Original Source: Wikileaks