Oct 202014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/02/08MANILA317.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA317
2008-02-05 09:41
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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DE RUEHML #0317 0360941
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 050941Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9666
INFO RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM IMMEDIATE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING IMMEDIATE 6307
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI IMMEDIATE 6454
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI IMMEDIATE 1607
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L MANILA 000317

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/05/2018
TAGS: PBTS PGOV PREL RP TW VM CH PG
SUBJECT: TAIWAN’S SPRATLY VISIT DRAWS SHARP REBUKE

REF: A. 2007 MANILA 1991
¶B. 2006 MANILA 4848
¶C. 2004 MANILA 5826

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian’s highly
publicized February 2 visit to a Taiwanese-occupied island in
the Spratly Island chain drew a sharp reaction from Arroyo
administration officials. Philippine Foreign Secretary
Alberto Romulo cast the visit as lamentable and irresponsible
political posturing, charging that it undercut joint efforts
to achieve peace and stability in the region. Defense
Secretary Gilberto Teodoro likewise decried Chen’s visit, but

SIPDIS
asserted that it posed no threat to the Philippines’ security
and merited no increased Philippine military presence in the
islands, several of which are garrisoned by Philippine
troops. END SUMMARY.

¶2. (SBU) BACKGROUND: The Spratly Islands are claimed in
their entirety by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, while portions
of the chain are claimed by Malaysia and the Philippines.
This disputed sovereignty resulted in open naval clashes
between China and Vietnam in 1988 and 1992. In its call for
self-restraint, cooperation, and no further use of force
among claimant nations, the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on
the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea defused tension
in the sprawling archipelago of more than 100 islets, atolls,
and reefs in the South China Sea. However, with its 2005
Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) with China and
Vietnam, the Philippines began to move away from such
traditional multilateral approaches, in favor of coordinating
trilateral exploration of possible hydrocarbon reserves by
the three countries’ national oil companies. The trilateral
exploration program involves data gathering, consolidation,
and interpretation; initial surveys were completed in
November 2005, and the second phase involving resurvey of
promising areas is now underway. Taiwan has vigorously
objected to the trilateral project, on the grounds that it
counters Taiwan’s claims to the islands.

¶3. (C) President Chen’s flight to Itu Abu Island (also known
as Ligao or Taiping Dao) highlighted the recent completion of
a 3,800 foot Taiwanese airstrip on the 114 acre island, the
largest in the Spratlys. Accompanied by Taiwan’s ministers
of defense and interior on a Taiwanese Air Force C-130, Chen
inaugurated the newly completed runway and inspected troops
prior to returning to Taiwan the same day. (The island
chain’s second-largest island, nearby Thitu Island (also
known as Pagasa or Zhongye Dao), is occupied by Philippine
forces and home to a civilian settlement of more than 300
Filipinos.) Philippine government statements alluding to
“political posturing” stem from widespread reports that
Chen’s intent in traveling to the Spratlys was partly to
garner support for his party’s candidate in Taiwan’s upcoming
presidential election March 22.

¶4. (C) COMMENT: Notwithstanding Taiwan’s strident
territorial claims and the strong language of Philippine
officials in denouncing President Chen’s visit to the
Spratlys, there is little chance that the Philippine
government will move beyond a rhetorical response at this
point. Despite the presence of Filipinos on some of the
islands, the Philippine armed forces lack the naval or air
capacity to project any significant force in the Spratlys.
At the same time, as the Philippines, China, and Vietnam
explore the archipelago’s mineral resources, they would
appear to have too much invested to allow any dramatic
gestures on the part of Taiwan to distract them from their
common goal.
KENNEY

   

 

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