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Friday, January 12, 2001

Inouye: Bush misses
greater problem—Pacific

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Although President-elect George W. Bush has selected a "blue ribbon defense team," Sen. Daniel Inouye warns that "their inclination is with Europe."

Inouye was referring to Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell, who headed the military under Bush's father; Secretary of Defense-designate Donald Rumsfeld, Gerald Ford's secretary of defense; and Condoleezza Rice, the incoming national security adviser. Also singled out was Vice President-elect Richard Cheney, who was the elder Bush's secretary of defense.

However, Inouye said he doesn't expect to oppose any of Bush's Cabinet appointments when they come up for confirmation in the Senate -- "unless the hearings result in disclosures of grave concern."

In a speech to the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii and state lawmakers this week at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies at Fort DeRussy, Inouye described the team as "first-class people."

However, Inouye said he was concerned about their Euro-centric focus, pointing out that eight of the world's largest armies are in the Asia-Pacific region.

Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the military commander during Desert Storm in 1991 and presided over the crumbling of the Soviet Union, Inouye said. Rice is an expert on the Soviet Union, he added.

"The problems of the Pacific region are of greater dimension than those of Europe," he said. "The big question mark is China."

The Hawaii Democrat said Bush's defense team needs to be reoriented. "They have to be told that the problems of the world are here."

Much of the military's major assets still are tied up on the Atlantic coast, readied for a European conflict. "Sixty-five percent of the landing craft for the Marines are in the Atlantic," Inouye said.

All of the Air Force's newest jet cargo planes also are deployed there.

"If something were to flare up in China or Korea, Kosovo would be nothing," he said.

Inouye said he flew to Austin, Tex., Monday with three other members of Congress who specialize in defense issues to meet with Bush.

He said, within the next several decades, the combined population of China and India will surpass half of the world's population.

"Both India and Pakistan have an inventory of nuclear devices," he added.

Despite what appears to be a warming relationship between North and South Korea, Inouye believes vigilance is still needed because of the North's instability.

He recalled that when he and Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens went to North Korea on the Senate's first fact-finding trip in April 1997, he was astonished not to see a single pigeon in the capital, Pyongyang.

During the 24 hours he spent in the city, Inouye said, he didn't see "a single pigeon, a dog or a cat."

"When we visited one of their prize communal farms, we didn't see a single chicken, duck or oxen ... and the hills surrounding the city had been denuded."

He and others in the U.S. delegation were escorted everywhere they went and were never allowed "to talk to the people," not even military officials.

"There were huge buildings that were never lit because of a power shortage. During that 24-hour period, I saw 28 cars. Ten-lane highway coming right through Pyongyang with only 28 cars."

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