Taiwan gears up to face leaks on cross-strait ties

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 December, 2010, 12:00am

Taiwan has set up a special task force to try to control possible damage over some highly sensitive documents that may be released by WikiLeaks.

The whistle-blowing website is expected to unveil confidential information involving relations between Taiwan, the mainland and the United States, through a total of 3,456 cables sent by the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy on the island.

The cables could reveal secrets concerning military and political issues involving Taipei, Beijing and Washington.

Cables from the US embassy in Beijing have already been released. In those files, diplomats noted Beijing's concern that the US could sell Black Hawk helicopters and F-16 C/D fighters to Taiwan. And WikiLeaks has said US Defence Secretary Dr Robert Gates, while visiting Turkey early this year, proposed that Ankara lease or buy American-made AH-1W attack helicopters from Taiwan.

Wary of the negative impact on US ties, Taiwanese legislators asked Defence Minister General Kao Hua-chu yesterday whether the military had prepared any measures to cope with the possible leaks.

Kao said the military had set up a team to comb through WikiLeaks cables relating to Taiwan. 'I have ordered defence vice-minister Dr Andrew Yang Nien-dzu to lead a special task force to verify the cables' to see whether the information in them was true, he said.

On Beijing's reported concern of the possible US aircraft sales, Kao said it was no secret at all as it had long been Beijing's position to oppose any US arms sales to Taiwan.

Regarding the alleged US plan to persuade Taiwan to sell or lease helicopters to Turkey, he said: 'This is the first time I have heard of this.' He said that since he became defence minister last year, the US had not made such a request. 'So not all the information revealed is true,' Kao noted.

Taipei's Foreign Ministry spokesman James Chang said it would closely follow the developments, but would not comment because the documents belonged to the US.

Meanwhile, the ruling Kuomintang and the office of its honorary chairman Lien Chan described as absurd news reports from Hong Kong saying Beijing might appoint Lien vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, or even vice-president in 2013.

KMT spokesman Su Jun-pin called the reports groundless. Mainland Affairs Council chairwoman Dr Lai Shin-yuan also said residents were barred by Taiwanese law from accepting government posts on the mainland.

In a cable from the consulate in Shenyang , Liaoning , in January, a US official quoted 'a well-placed source' saying two mainland firms were vying for exclusive access to a North Korean copper mine deal, The Guardian newspaper said. The source implied 'someone had made a payment [in the order of US$10,000] to secure Premier [Wen Jiabao's ] support'. Some local analysts called the claim 'ridiculous'.