Thursday, July 13, 2000
on status of TaiwanThe issue: China's top military official said Beijing does not intend to attack Taiwan.AS if to confirm that China's threats to invade Taiwan were just so much bluster, Beijing's top military man has assured Defense Secretary William Cohen that China doesn't intend to attack that outpost of resistance to Communist rule.
Our view: China used threats of invasion to intimidate the new president of Taiwan.
The threats reached a climax during and after Taiwan's presidential election in March, which was won by the opposition candidate Chen Shui-bien. Chen's victory was disturbing to Beijing because his party has advocated independence for Taiwan. But Chen has toned down his rhetoric on the independence issue and tried to mollify Beijing.
Cohen and other officials are visiting Beijing for the first time since China broke off relations with the U.S. military last year to protest the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Having expressed their outrage over the bombing and tried to intimidate the new leader of Taiwan, the Chinese seem willing to restore a sense of normalcy.
A senior U.S. official said on condition of anonymity that the Chinese defense minister, Gen. Chi Haotian, "indicated they have no intention to use force" against Taiwan. U.S. Ambassador Joseph Prueher said the Chinese delegation was approaching the subject of Taiwan in a more positive manner.
This is welcome, if not quite startling, news. China has a long history of using inflammatory rhetoric as a substitute for military force. It's obvious that an invasion of Taiwan would be madness, but vague threats of invasion could keep Taiwan from taking an irrevocable step toward formal independence. Now that the new president of Taiwan has indicated he is eager to find a modus vivendi with Beijing, the threats have ceased.
Meanwhile neighboring North Korea has also reverted to form. It is demanding $1 billion from the U.S. in exchange for stopping the export of missiles.
The recent summit meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea sparked hope that Pyongyang had abandoned its confrontational policies. But in talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, North Korean officials demanded compensation for abandoning missile exports as requested by the United States. This is a familiar North Korean tactic.
Jang Chang-chon, head of the North Korean delegation, said compensation would be justified because a missile-export ban would threaten North Korea's sovereignty and security.
But the leader of the U.S. delegation, Robert Einhorn, assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, commented, "As far as we are concerned, North Korea should not be securing cash compensation for stopping what it should not be doing in the first place."
Washington has tried to coax Pyongyang into a less confrontational posture by supplying food aid, fuel oil and a new nuclear power system -- still under construction -- in exchange for a pledge to stop development of nuclear weapons. Evidently the U.S. must contend with more efforts to obtain payoffs.
Trustees obstinancyThe issue: Interim trustees of Kamehameha Schools are refusing to cooperate with the state attorney general's office, apparently concerned about risking cancelation of insurance coverage.ATTEMPTS by the interim trustees of Kamehameha Schools purportedly to protect the trust have developed into an adversarial relationship with the state attorney general's office. Heated remarks emanating from the dispute could jeopardize settlement of the legal issues growing out of the former trustees' abuses. Cooler heads are needed to create the cooperation needed to avoid a protracted battle.
Our view: Such cooperation does not rise to the level of taking an active role in the state's litigation, which could be the basis for revocation of insurance.
The state's lawsuit seeking compensation from the ousted trustees of the former Bishop Estate is scheduled for trial in September. The attorney general's office has complained that the interim trustees' refusal to provide information has impeded its gathering of evidence for the trial. The trustees, led by chairman Robert Kihune, a retired admiral, maintain they are merely protecting the estate's interests.
Last month, estate attorney Douglas Ing charged in court that the attorney general's office "reports to politicians...who are not unlike some of the former trustees. They know how to use money and power." Ing's remark unfairly disparages state attorneys' success in forcing the former trustees to relinquish their lucrative positions and the aggressive attempt to impose surcharges on the former trustees as a method of redress.
A May report by court-appointed master Robert Richards charged that several outside law firms obstructed the attorney general's investigation of the trust while the former trustees were in power at the estate. In conducting an internal investigation, the current trustees are using a law professor and a law firm who were among those whose work benefited the former trus-tees, according to Deputy Attorney General Dor-othy Sellers.
Sellers contends that the interim trustees also may be risking liability of surcharges against themselves because of their continued reliance on the Cades Schutte Fleming & Wright law firm. The Cades firm billed the trust for $1.3 million in legal work from August 1998 to May 1999, for which the former trustees may be liable.
Michael Tanoue, another court-appointed master, issued a report that largely sides with the interim trustees, saying their cooperation with the state could risk the potential loss of $75 million in insurance coverage.
While the insurance policies contain language that could revoke coverage if the interim board were to take an active role in the state's litigation, that does not mean the interim trustees must fight the state at every turn.
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