Friday, April 27, 2001

Bush deftly
handles China-
Taiwan question

The issue: President Bush
pledges that the United States
will help defend Taiwan and
OK's the sale of new weapons.

IN REAFFIRMING the commitment of the United States to assist Taiwan in determining its own future, President Bush has deftly walked a razor's edge between kowtowing to the demands of China and unnecessarily provoking Beijing. The president has avoided belligerence in asserting that his administration would fulfill its obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 and has approved an arms sale that appears to be adequate to Taiwan's needs. Both deserve a nod of approval.

As the Chinese have repeatedly contended, the future of Taiwan is the most sensitive issue in an ever-expanding list of differences between the United States and China. Beijing claims sovereignty over the island to which its Nationalist Chinese enemies fled in 1949. A majority of the people in Taiwan have said in poll after poll that they have no desire to be ruled from the mainland. The United States has long held that the dispute across the straits should be settled peaceably and, more recently, insisted that any resolution be acceptable to the people on Taiwan.

Since the days of President Richard Nixon, the United States has operated under a policy of "strategic ambiguity," which was intended to keep both sides guessing as to what the U.S. would do in the event that China sought to attack or invade Taiwan. That policy worked while China was weak.

With each passing day, as China emerges as a major power in Asia, it becomes more apparent that strategic ambiguity is no longer useful. Ambiguity can lead to miscalculation that, in turn, can lead to war. We who live with the daily reminder of the Arizona Memorial are witnesses to the most devastating miscalculation of the 20th century. More than one student of Asia has begun to wonder if China has started down the road of miscalculation once trod by Japan.

Confronted with that possibility, and with mounting evidence that the Chinese ignorance of America is monumental, the United States has little choice but to assume a posture of firm deterrence. William Perry, a secretary of defense in the Clinton administration and a superb diplomatic negotiator, has said that the best way for China to halt the missile defenses planned by the United States in the Pacific would be to stop building missiles that threaten Taiwan.

Writ large, the best way for China to soften the policy of the United States on the defense of Taiwan, including the sale of arms to Taipei, would be to renounce the use of force in settling the dispute across the Taiwan Strait.

Small-boat harbors are
too taxing on taxpayers

The issue: Legislative auditor reports
again that small-boat marinas are
a burden to taxpayers.

SMALL BOAT owners joke that their proud possessions can be described as holes in the water that are depositories of money. The same can be said seriously of small-boat harbors as they have been operated by the state.

For the third time in eight years, state legislative auditor Marion Higa has criticized the state for allowing its small-boat harbors to deteriorate. The state pleads poverty. The solution is not to pour money into repairs -- money the state doesn't have -- but to turn the harbors over to the private sector.

In her most recent report, Higa says many small-boat facilities "need major repairs and face permanent closure if not addressed."

Numerous boating slips have been closed by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources for safety and liability reasons instead of being repaired.

Higa says the problems have been caused partly by "poor planning, an insufficient fee structure, funding programs from special funds instead of general funds and paying a disproportionate share of the department's enforcement costs."

DLNR Chairman Gilbert Coloma-Agaran supports legislation to privatize Oahu's Ala Wai and Keehi harbors but not the other 19 small-boat harbors and other boating programs statewide. The aim should be to privatize all the harbors where feasible.

As the Star-Bulletin's "Water Ways" columnist Ray Pendleton pointed out several months ago, California's Marina del Ray has been a successful public-private partnership that Hawaii would do well to emulate. With long-term leases from the county, the private sector built 20 separate boat facilities with a total of 6,000 slips, more than 2,000 in excess of Hawaii's statewide total.

Businesses also opened nearby facilities such as boat yards, hardware stores, boat dealerships, residential units, hotels, shops and restaurants. It has been reported to be Los Angeles County's most successful revenue-generating project.

West Oahu's privately owned Ko Olina Marina has enjoyed similar rewards since opening a year ago while charging mooring rates that are nearly double those at Ala Wai, Oahu's most convenient marina. A wide array of amenities have been installed at Ko Olina and more are planned, along with expansion of the marina itself to accommodate "mega-yachts" and "dock-aminiums."

Planners of Marina del Ray and Ko Olina used imagination and entrepreneurship to create profitable enterprises out of what otherwise could have been drains on tax resources. Hawaii's marinas are likely to remain financial deadbeats as long as they are anchored to government.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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