Wednesday, May 5, 1999
Sale of radar warning
system to TaiwanThe issue: China's deployment of ballistic missiles that could be fired at TaiwanTENSION in Sino-American relations went up another notch with the Clinton administration's decision to sell an early-warning radar system to Taiwan. The purpose of the sale is to allow Taiwan to monitor the launching of ballistic missiles or warplanes by China.
Our view: The decision to sell an early warning radar system to Taiwan is justified by China's missile deployment.
The decision has unsurprisingly drawn protests from Beijing, which views any arms sale to Taiwan as an infringement on Chinese sovereignty. But the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 authorizes the United States to assist in the defense of Taiwan.
In this case, the decision was prompted by China's deployment of ballistic missiles -- reportedly more than 100 -- that could be fired across the Taiwan Strait at the island. The Taipei government has cited the deployment in arguing for a missile-defense system.
Earlier this year the Defense Department reported to Congress that Taiwan's "most significant vulnerability" is its limited ability to defend itself against Chinese missiles. Three years ago China attempted to influence Taiwan's presidential election by firing missiles near the island, prompting President Clinton to deploy two aircraft carrier groups to the area.
The early-warning radar would give Taiwan several minutes' warning of Chinese missile launches. The decision by the administration leaves details to be worked out. There has been no determination as to exactly what type of system would be provided, which companies would build it and at what cost.
An adverse reaction from Beijing was expected, and some administration officials argued against approval because it would heighten tensions.
But Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., chairman of the House International Affairs Committee, had it right when he said China had no reason to be concerned about the radar sale. The Chinese Communists, he pointed out, are "the ones putting the missiles along the coastline in the first place."
Earlier Gilman had threatened to introduce legislation to permit the sale if the administration refused to approve it.
However, the administration decided that the radar system met a legitimate defensive need.
The decision to sell the radar system follows the disclosures of Chinese theft of nuclear weapons secrets and criticism of Beijing's continuing human rights violations, which have frustrated Clinton administration efforts to build a partnership with Beijing.
The recent visit to Washington of Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji evidently failed to halt the slide in Sino-American relations. Zhu's personal appeal could not mask the reality of deep conflict between Beijing's policies and America's interests.
Uwaine nominationThe issue: Clifford Uwaine's nomination to a state health-fund post was withdrawn.THE withdrawal of former Sen. Clifford "Chip" Uwaine's nomination as trustee of the Hawaii Public Employees Health Fund has spared senators the dilemma of either incurring more public wrath or bucking the public employee unions. Governor Cayetano's choice of the convicted felon was a mistake and the nomination's withdrawal was prudent.
Our view: Uwaine was a poor choice to serve in the post and the withdrawal of the nomination is welcome.
Uwaine served three months in prison in 1986 for conspiring to fraudulently register voters living outside of the district where his protege, Ross Segawa, was running for the House in 1982 so they could vote for Segawa. In 1997, the state Campaign Spending Commission fined Uwaine $4,436 for using his campaign funds for personal expenses, including visits to hostess bars.
Uwaine is now a division director of the United Public Workers and Cayetano gave him an appointment as an interim trustee of the health fund. The governor's decision to nominate Uwaine as a permanent trustee came after he had displayed more unethical conduct while serving on the health-fund board.
Last December, Uwaine and Keith Ahue, deputy director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, voted to award a $3 million life-insurance contract for city and state employees to a company whose board of trustees was headed by HGEA Executive Director Russell Okata and included Gary Rodrigues, the UPW's state director -- Uwaine's and Ahue's bosses.
The company had submitted a contract proposal that was not the lowest bid and offered benefits that were less attractive than those offered by the low bidder.
Cayetano denounced the health-fund board's decision, saying it smacked of favoritism and was made with "no defensible reason for the board's choice...over the competing carrier."
Although he criticized Uwaine's vote, Cayetano nominated him for permanent status on the health-fund board, evidently to appease the public employee unions. Labor's opposition to Senate confirmation of Margery Bronster to continue as attorney general may have prompted Cayetano to retaliate by withdrawing Uwaine's nomination.
In any event, Uwaine should not have been nominated and the withdrawal of the nomination corrects a mistake.
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