Wednesday, August 11, 1999

U.S. needs missile
defense system

Bullet The issue: North Korea threatens to launch a missile that could reach Hawaii.

Bullet Our view: The threat underlines the importance of developing and deploying a missile defense system.

HAWAII residents should take special notice of the flap over North Korea's plans to launch another missile, because this one is supposed to be capable of reaching these islands.

Don't panic. Nobody expects that the missile, if it is launched, will actually be aimed at Hawaii.

Still, the idea that North Korea might have a missile that could reach Hawaii is unsettling, given the volatile character of this regime. That is a compelling reason to press ahead with development of a missile defense system.

Hawaii's congressional delegation must have had this in mind when all four members voted in favor of a bill declaring it national policy to develop an anti-missile system "as soon as technologically possible." The measure was passed by the Senate on March 17 and the House on May 20.

The campaign for missile defense gained momentum when a North Korean test missile sailed over Japan and splashed down in the Pacific last year.

Facing certain defeat if it opposed the legislation, the White House reversed course after the Senate adopted two face-saving amendments. One declared that the program would be subject to annual authorization and appropriations.

The other stipulated that the United States would continue negotiating arms reduction agreements with Russia. The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty bars deployment of a missile defense system and Russia has resisted revising the agreement.

President Clinton signed the bill into law last month. However, he issued a statement contending that no decision to deploy missile defenses had been made -- leading critics to describe his policy as "two faced."

Clinton has tried to salvage the ABM treaty even though it was signed with a country -- the Soviet Union -- that no longer exists.

In 1997, the administration signed agreements with four former Soviet states to revive the treaty and even strengthen it, but refused to submit the agreements to the Senate for ratification.

In July 1998, a bipartisan panel of experts warned that North Korea and Iran could deploy missiles able to reach U.S. territory within five years. Six weeks later the North Koreans launched a modified version of their Taepo-Dong missile.

On the basis of the panel's report and the Korean launching, Defense Secretary William Cohen warned that a missile threat to U.S. territory was virtually at hand.

Now the North Koreans are defying Washington's warnings of "serious consequences" and are threatening to go ahead with the launch of an improved version of the missile.

The United States cannot give the Russians veto power over our national security when the danger of missile attack by North Korea or some other rogue nation is becoming more credible. Work on development of an effective missile defense system should proceed. When it succeeds, the system should be deployed.

Saipan settlement

Bullet The issue: Four major retailers have agreed to pay for monitoring of working conditions in the Saipan garment industry.

Bullet Our view: The settlement is welcome but Congress should enact tighter controls.

COMPLAINTS of miserable working conditions in Saipan's garment factories have festered for years. Manufacturers have used the Northern Marianas' status as a U.S. commonwealth to justify "Made in the USA" labels on garments made there but have exploited the Marianas' exemption from U.S. labor and immigration laws.

Lawsuits filed Jan. 13 in Los Angeles, San Francisco and the Northern Marianas described approximately 32 contractors in Saipan as "America's worst sweatshop" with beatings, forced abortions, vermin-infested quarters, barbed wire and armed guards. The suits charged that employees worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

Now four prominent retailers have agreed to pay for independent monitoring of the industry as part of a settlement of one of the suits.

Nordstrom Inc., J. Crew Group Inc., Cutter & Buck Inc. and Gymboree Corp. agreed to the oversight of their contractors with factories in the U.S. territory. The companies are to establish a $1.25 million fund to finance the monitoring program, provide money to the workers, create a public education campaign and pay attorneys' fees.

Attorneys also filed a letter of agreement in principle to settle with Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., Donna Karan International Inc. and Chadwick's of Boston Ltd.

"No one wants to destroy the garment industry in Saipan, but it should not come at the price of indentured servitude," plaintiffs' attorney William Lerach said.

Hawaii's Sen. Daniel Akaka has been a leader in congressional efforts to improve working and living conditions of garment workers on Saipan. He has introduced legislation to apply U.S. immigration and minimum-wage laws to Saipan and allow goods manufactured there to use the "Made in the USA" label only if 50 percent of the work was done by American citizens.

Akaka supported the suits but said that changes in federal law would still be needed "as a permanent fix for the grave problems." The settlement represents progress in this struggle but Congress should pass Akaka's bill.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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