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Tuesday, May 2, 2000

Maui woman’s arrest
on kidnapping charges

Bullet The issue: A Maui woman who fled Hawaii with her two young daughters has been arrested in Miami on parental kidnapping charges.

Bullet Our view: The success of federal law enforcement officers in arresting the woman could serve as a deterrent to others.

THE Elian Gonzalez saga is among other things a dispute over custody of a child. There are many such disputes, although few attain such dramatic dimensions.

Currently Hawaii is involved in a custody case that extends across national borders. A Maui woman who fled Hawaii with her two young daughters is in federal custody in Miami on international parental kidnapping charges.

Mary Lou French violated a Hawaii Family Court ruling when she fled from Maui to Costa Rica with the children, whom the couple had adopted from China. She was arrested last week by U.S. authorities in Panama City, Panama. A Justice Department spokesman said she will be brought back to Hawaii to face the charges.

Meanwhile, her former husband, James French, was reunited with 5-year-old Emily and 4-year-old Sarah on Thursday in Miami. "The kids are in great shape," he said. "It's just like no time passed at all."

French quit his post as music director of the Maui Symphony Orchestra to search for his daughters after they were taken by their mother in January 1999, his attorney, Elizabeth Melehan, said.

James French was able to visit the children in Costa Rica in January after his former wife was arrested. But she was released in March on her own recognizance pending extradition to Hawaii and then fled with the girls to Panama, Melehan said. When she was arrested in Panama she had a fake passport she planned to use to go to Thailand with her daughters, Melehan said.

Mary Lou French had told a Costa Rican judge that her ex-husband had molested the children. James French said the claim was an excuse she invented only after losing custody of the girls. Federal officials sided with him.

Unfortunately, such kidnappings are a recurring problem, with the children helpless pawns in a conflict between their parents. In the case of the Frenches, federal authorities seem to have performed effectively to apprehend a kidnapper. The arrest may serve as a deterrent to others with similar ideas.

In the case of Elian Gonzalez, federal authorities resorted to a predawn raid by heavily armed agents to rescue the child, provoking criticism of their methods. But the operation succeeded; no one was injured. The arrest of Mary Lou French was another success for federal law enforcement.

Okinawan activists
appeal to North Korea

Bullet The issue: Okinawans seeking the removal of U.S. forces will appeal to North Korea for help.

Bullet Our view: North Korea is the reason for the troops' presence and is in no position to help the Okinawans short of disbanding its own forces.

IT indicated a certain detachment from reality. Activists seeking the removal of American forces from Okinawa plan to appeal to North Korea for assistance. Masahide Ota, a former governor of Okinawa, will travel to Pyongyang this week to ask leaders of the Communist regime to help get rid of the 27,000 U.S. troops on the island.

North Korea must be the last country in the world that could provide effective assistance for this cause. The U.S. troops in Okinawa are stationed there in considerable part because North Korea is a threat to the stability of East Asia, including Japan. The Japanese national government fully appreciates this fact and supports the U.S. presence in Okinawa as a means of deterring North Korean aggression.

Two years ago the North Koreans fired a missile over the Japanese islands and into the Pacific, a performance that made Tokyo more concerned than ever about Pyongyang's intentions. The announcement that South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korea's Kim Jong-il will meet in June has kindled hopes for a peace settlement but no one is celebrating yet. North Korea has made many overtures only to pull back or impose additional, unacceptable conditions.

Masahide Ota explained in an interview, "We in Okinawa have never had any conflict or tension with the people of North Korea ... So I hope to meet with senior officials in North Korea to discuss our relationship."

No doubt the North Korean officials who meet Ota will be delighted to go along with his call for the removal or reduction of the American military presence on Okinawa. But he is a fool if he thinks that will induce the Americans to leave or inspire the government in Tokyo to reverse its policy.

Okinawans have been unhappy over the large U.S. military establishment on their island for decades, although it has provided economic benefits. But Okinawan objections carry little weight in Tokyo.

The Japanese government wants the American troops to stay because they contribute to the defense of Japan, which is still so dominated by pacifism that it can't build up sufficient forces to defend itself.

It would be different if Ota persuaded Kim Jong-il to make peace with South Korea and disband his army. That would make a call for the removal of U.S. forces from Okinawa much more plausible. But as long as North Korea represents a regional security threat, Washington will want to retain its military presence on Okinawa, and Tokyo will want it, too.

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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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