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SINGAPORE: Media agrees with DPM Lee's remarks on Taiwan politics

Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was absolutely right when he said that Taiwan is preoccupied with domestic politics and is not fully aware of a different China that is emerging

The Straits Times
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

SINGAPORE Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was absolutely right when he said that Taiwan is preoccupied with domestic politics and is not fully aware of a different China that is emerging, Hong Kong and Taiwanese media have said.

Mr Lee 'pierced to the truth in this one pertinent remark', former Taiwan official Susie Chiang wrote in a commentary published in the Hong Kong Economic Journal yesterday. The former director of Taiwan's Government Information Office in Hong Kong was commenting on the impressions Mr Lee has of Taiwan after his recent trip to get a first-hand feel of developments there.
 
He had warned at the end of the visit last week that a miscalculation by Taiwan could spark a crisis with China, because the island had become caught up in its own domestic affairs.

A miscalculation would have serious repercussions on Singapore and the region, he had said.

Agreeing, Ms Chiang said the Taiwanese public was generally unaware that the cross-strait situation was deteriorating and was taking it lightly.

She blamed this on the pro-independence Taiwanese government, which she said had been giving the people the misleading assurance that cross-strait ties remained stable.

'In reality, the Taiwan Strait is gradually moving towards a showdown,' she said, noting that China would not hesitate to go to war to thwart independence moves by Taiwan.

The pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po had quoted military sources as saying recently that China did not rule out attacking Taiwan within the next 20 years.

'But Taiwan's senior leadership has its own reading of this report,' noted Ms Chiang.

'Clearly, Taiwan's top leaders are deliberately playing it down to calm the people, while at the same time forging ahead with its policy of moving Taiwan towards independence,' she said.

Meanwhile, Yazhou Zhoukan, a Hong Kong weekly news magazine, said the Taiwan government was using 'diplomatic offensives' to advance its own interests in domestic politics.

Its latest 'offensives' included getting Mr Lee to visit Taiwan and sending Taiwanese presidential aide Su Tseng-chang on a recent secret mission to the Philippines, it said.

'If it got away with these, Taiwan's international status would receive a big boost and the government would score points for the year-end parliamentary election. If they failed, that will be attributed to 'bullying' by Beijing, hence gaining points for the election all the same,' the commentary said.

Taiwan's China Times newspaper also agreed with Mr Lee's comment that the island had not adequately factored in the vast changes in the international situation because of its preoccupation with domestic politics and winning votes.

It said in an editorial that Mr Lee had probably sensed the ominous situation when visiting Beijing in May, which was why he subsequently ignored China's warning and went ahead to visit Taiwan to pass on that message personally.

In an earlier editorial, the newspaper had said there was nothing much that Taiwan could offer to Singapore for the city-state to risk provoking China.

Mr Lee's trip was prompted mainly by what he saw was developing in the Asia-Pacific and his need to safeguard Singapore's national interests, it said.

Asia Institute