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Taiwan Tati Cultural and Educational Foundation

Billions later, is Taiwan any safer?

Though welcome, the US$6.4 billion US arms sale to Taiwan announced by Washington on Friday will not bring much in terms of Taiwan’s ability to defend itself. All the items in the package, with the exception of the 60 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, had been approved — and then delayed — by former US president George W. Bush’s administration. In other words, since large parts of the package were first announced in 2001, Taiwan’s military has been treading water, while China has sprinted ahead with the modernization of its military.

None of the items in the package will make a substantial difference. While the PAC-3 missile defense system can bolster the defense of certain key targets, it is not sufficient to deter an attack, especially as the sale is likely to result in a decision by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to add short and medium-range missiles to the 1,500 it already aims at Taiwan and step up its missile program.

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Endorsement of Lobo sullies Taiwan's democracy

President Ma Ying-jeou's attendance at last Wednesday's inauguration of Honduran President Porifino Lubo of the conservative National Party of Honduras sullied the reputation of Taiwan's hard-won democracy and marked a grave diplomatic misjudgement.

Ma, who is concurrently chairman of the rightist ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang), endorsed as "democratic" the new Honduran government, which was created by general elections held by a repressive "interim" regime formed in the wake of the coup against former president Jose Manuel Zelaya of the Honduran Liberal Party last June 28 after the Liberal Party president proposed constitutional reforms that could open the Honduran political system to wider popular participation.

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China is no friend of Washington

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Jan. 24 that his country was resolved to produce its own highly enriched uranium — a long-standing bone of contention between Tehran and the West. The West offered Iran a draft nuclear deal last November under a resolution of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that called for Tehran to trade about 80 percent of its domestically produced low-grade uranium for highly enriched nuclear fuel from France and Russia.

The uranium would then be converted into fuel rods and returned to Iran for use in the medical research. Such an arrangement was designed to reduce Iran’s ability to make a nuclear weapon quickly and buy more time for negotiations. Iran has rejected the offer.

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The 'one-term' specter over Ma and Obama

In the wake of electoral setbacks suffered by United States President Barack Obama's Democratic Party, the Taiwan news media could not refrain from comparing the situation of the U.S. president with his counterpart, President Ma Ying-jeou of the rightist Chinese National Party (Kuomintang).

After all, Ma's ruling KMT has similarly suffered a series of defeats at the polls, beginning with a stunning victory by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party in a legislative by-election in Yunlin County in September, followed by the loss of benchmark Yilan County and a poorer-than-expected vote tally in the Dec. 5 "three-in-one" local polls and a DPP sweep of three legislative by-elections Jan. 9.

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Ma and Obama: like night and day

Last year was a bad one for national leaders around the world, most of whom were unable to hold their heads high. Although it is difficult to satisfy the public at a time of economic downturn, high unemployment, global warming and complex domestic political, economic and social problems, this is a test of our leaders.

Like US President Barack Obama, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) started off with high approval ratings and has since seen his popularity drop. But these two leaders have responded very differently to the situation.

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Central bank must be independent

In recent days and weeks, the central bank has been busy refuting market rumors and media speculation that its repeated warnings on inflows of hot money and its checks on banks’ foreign-exchange transactions and forward trades have caused a decline on the stock market.

For its part, the central bank has done what it is required to do to safeguard the nation’s economy, monetary policy and price stability in the long term, although its recent rhetoric did have a direct impact on the exchange rate of the New Taiwan dollar and indirectly on the stock market. Make no mistake, the currency markets can impact equity markets in various ways — and vice versa.

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Newsflash

DHARAMSHALA, August 14: In alarming reports coming out of Tibet, two more Tibetans set themselves on fire in protest against China’s rule over Tibet, Monday. There are also unconfirmed reports of a third self-immolation that took place later in the evening.

In more disturbing reports, following the self-immolations, local Tibetans carried out a protest in solidarity with the self-immolators, which reportedly resulted in the death of a Tibetan protestor.