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Monday, January 15, 2001

Bush needs
advisers who are
Asia experts

Bullet The issue: President-elect Bush's foreign- and defense-policy team is focused on Europe, not Asia.
Bullet Our view: He had better add some Asia specialists as policymakers.

HAWAII'S Senator Inouye has expressed concern that the incoming Bush administration's foreign policy team is headed by people who are oriented toward Europe, which could result in neglect of Asian problems.

In a talk here last week, Inouye noted that Gen. Colin Powell, President-elect Bush's choice as secretary of state, was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War. Condoleezza Rice, Bush's selection as national security adviser, is an expert on the Soviet Union, he added.

Inouye, including Defense Secretary-designate Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President-elect Dick Cheney in his statement, said Bush has selected a "blue-ribbon defense team," but "their inclination is with Europe." However, the senator declared, the problems of the Asia-Pacific region "are of greater dimension than those of Europe" and "the biggest question mark is China."

All very true, and of particular concern to Hawaii. But much the same was said about the Clinton policy team's lack of Asian expertise at the outset of the current administration. Much depends on the quality of officials at the next level -- the aides whose recommendations often form the basis of decisions.

An article from The Economist in the Star-Bulletin's Insight section Saturday faulted Powell and Rice on other grounds -- Powell for timidity in opposing the Gulf War and Rice for underestimating Boris Yeltsin.

No such qualms are expressed by John R. Bolton, who served as assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs in the first Bush administration.

Bolton, writing in the Far Eastern Economic Review, said the new administration "will view Asia in a fuller, more realistic and more balanced fashion than Washington has shown in the past eight years." Bolton decried President Clinton's "Sino-centric and highly deferential (to Beijing) policy" and predicted closer ties with Japan, Taiwan and other Asian countries.

It takes no special expertise to see that the Bush team is headed for a battle with China over its plans for a missile defense system. Rumsfeld, in particular, is a strong advocate of missile defense, having headed a commission that recommended development of such a system.

The reason for China's opposition is plain. Deployment of a missile defense system could stymie its plans to intimidate Taiwan. Washington can't kowtow on this issue.

No U.S. administration can afford to ignore the Asia-Pacific region. The president-elect had better pick some top Asia-Pacific experts -- and listen to them.

Asian campaign law
violations were real

Bullet The issue: An Indonesian billionaire has agreed to pay the largest fine ever levied in a U.S. campaign finance case.
Bullet Our view: The fine should answer the charge that Asians were unfairly targeted by federal prosecutors.

WHEN violations of the campaign spending laws before and during the 1996 election campaign were exposed, complaints were heard that Asians were being unfairly targeted.

Now an $8.6 million fine -- the largest ever in a campaign finance case -- has been levied in connection with those violations. The target is an Indonesian billionaire, James Riady.

Last week Riady agreed to plead guilty to a felony and to pay $8.6 million in criminal fines for his role in funneling money to President Clinton and other candidates for public office, mostly Democrats. The Justice Department said Riady pledged $1 million to Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992.

A California bank owned by the Riady family conglomerate agreed to plead guilty to 86 misdemeanors arising from campaign contributions made from 1988 through 1994.

The fine was technically imposed on Lippo Bank California, a unit of the Lippo Group conglomerate, based in Indonesia. Riady, an executive director of the Lippo Group, owned about 98 percent of the bank's stock. He acknowledged that he had reimbursed campaign donors with foreign corporate money in violation of federal law.

Among the donors who were reimbursed by Riady was John Huang, former head of U.S. operations for the Lippo Group, who became a Commerce Department official in the Clinton administration in 1994 and a vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1996.

Huang pleaded guilty in 1999 to engaging in a conspiracy to defraud the Federal Election Commission by arranging for Lippo employees to be reimbursed for campaign contributions in the 1992 and 1994 campaigns. He was sentenced to a year of probation.

The New York Times noted that the Riady family has often provided assistance to friends and associates of Clinton. A Riady company paid a consulting fee of $100,000 to Webster Hubbell after Hubbell resigned as associate attorney general in 1994 in a dispute over billing records at his former law firm in Little Rock.

The Riady plea agreement came too late to figure in the election. Had it been made during the fall campaign, it might have reminded voters of the campaign scandals associated with the Clinton administration, to the embarrassment of Al Gore. But it does not come too late to verify that there was indeed cause for investigators to focus on Asian contributors.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Acting 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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