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Editorials
Saturday, October 23, 1999

Tearful homecoming
for East Timor leader

Bullet The issue: Resistance leader Jose Gusmao got an emotional welcome on his homecoming to East Timor.
Bullet Our view: The world community should assist the East Timorese in restoring their homeland and building a new nation.

THE emotional homecoming of the exiled resistance leader Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao symbolizes the start of the process of building a new nation in ravaged East Timor.

Gusmao was captured by Indonesian troops in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Earlier this year he was placed under house arrest as part of a U.N.-sponsored agreement.

After the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence in an Aug. 30 referendum, he was released and made the rounds of Western capitals appealing for international intervention in the territory.

Thousands wept and cheered for Gusmao at a rally in the capital of Dili, which was devastated by pro-Indonesian militias with the army's tacit approval after the referendum.

The arrival of Gusmao, who was flown in from Australia and is expected to become the new nation's first president, marked the end of the territory's 25-year struggle for independence and the beginning of nation-building.

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was invaded by Indonesia when Portugal withdrew, but the people never accepted Indonesian rule. Then-President B.J. Habibie reversed decades of Indonesian policy and authorized the referendum that resulted in the approval of independence.

Gusmao's arrival came two days after the Indonesian parliament endorsed the results of the referendum, effectively relinquishing control of the province. Indonesia is supposed to make East Timor's independence official by the end of the year.

Negotiations are in progress with the United Nations about setting up a transitional administration that would govern for two to three years. The Security Council plans to vote Monday on a resolution giving the United Nations sweeping authority to administer East Timor during the transition.

The territory is presently occupied by United Nations peacekeeping forces led by Australia, which arrived Sept. 20 and wrested control from the murderous militias.

Gusmao urged the world to help rebuild the province. His appeal should be heeded, in part because the world community may bear some of the responsibility for the carnage that followed the referendum.

Some critics contend that the United Nations should have had forces in place to protect the people from the pro-Indonesian militias, having had ample advance warning of the violence that ensued.

This was a disaster that probably could have been averted. Now the people deserve assistance in rebuilding their ravaged land.

Tapa

U.S. case
against China

Bullet The issue: A federal grand jury has indicted the McDonnell Douglas Corp. and a Chinese-owned aerospace company on charges related to the diversion of equipment to military use.
Bullet Our view: The indictment injects a troublesome problem into Sino-American relations at a time when they seemed to be improving.

WHEN China finally, after repeated refusals, accepted U.S. assurances that the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the Kosovo conflict was an accident, it seemed that Sino-American relations could warm up a bit. Negotiations over China's entry into the World Trade Organization, which had been stalled, got going again.

Now another troublesome problem has emerged -- a federal grand jury indictment of a Chinese-government-owned aerospace company on charges of conspiring to conceal details of the sale of American equipment, some of which was diverted to a Chinese military site.

The case involves machining equipment used to bend steel in manufacturing planes. It was supposed to be used for commuter aircraft in China but some of it wound up at a military site where missiles and fighter aircraft were made.

The grand jury indicted the McDonnell Douglas Corp. and the China National Aero Technology Import and Export Corp. The indictment accuses officials of the Chinese company of being responsible for the diversion of six of the machines. It charges that McDonnell Douglas officials concealed or failed to disclose important information to Commerce Department licensing officials.

The case reinforces suspicion that China is prepared to use whatever means are necessary to acquire technology with military applications, suspicion that was fueled earlier this year by congressional charges of theft of nuclear weapons secrets. In a related move, the Clinton administration canceled the sale of a communications satellite that could be used for military purposes.

Disclosures of illegal Chinese contributions to President Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign further tarnished Beijing's image in this country.

The indictment puts the issue of Chinese acquisition of military technology in a different context. An official of the U.S. Customs Service said it was the first such action against a Chinese government entity for violations of U.S. export laws. This is probably more serious than an accusation by a congressional committee.

It remains in the American interest to try to maintain reasonably good relations with China, but these disclosures make it clear that there are stringent limits to that relationship. And there are other major differences over Taiwan and human rights.

Washington cannot turn its back on Beijing. But the idea of a "strategic partnership" with China, once broached by Clinton in a moment of fatuous enthusiasm, now seems absurd.






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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