Monday, October 29, 2001

Missile test delay is
far-sighted move

The issue: President Bush has postponed
three anti-missile tests until after a meeting
with Russian President Vladimir Putin
planned for mid-November.

The president made a wise decision in putting off three missile tracking tests to keep on course a promising movement toward better strategic relations with Russia, erstwhile adversary of the Cold War. President Vladimir Putin, whom President Bush met for the third time in five months when both were in Shanghai earlier this month, plans to come to Washington and then visit the president's ranch in Texas in a little over two weeks.

Nothing was lost and much stands to be gained by holding off the anti-missile tests that the Russians see as part of a U.S. threat. Moscow has vigorously objected to Bush's planned anti-missile defense that, if technically feasible, would make obsolete much of Russia's aging nuclear arsenal. In particular, Putin objects to Bush's plan to withdraw from the anti-ballistic missile treaty of 1972.

While in Shanghai, Putin and Bush indicated that they had come close to some sort of understanding about the ABM treaty and how to amend it. In a press conference, Putin said: "I believe we do have understanding that we can reach agreements, taking into account the national interests of Russia, the United States, and taking into account the necessity to strengthen international stability."

In a wider context, the United States, Russia and China are caught up in a triangular competition in which the United States seems to be holding the upper hand at the moment. In Shanghai, Putin was pointed in asserting that "our strategic priority is long-term cooperation and partnership" with the United States. He dwelt on "common values of one civilization."

With the impetus coming largely from China, Beijing and Moscow have appeared to have moved closer together in recent years. Even so, there is an underlying clash of empire that makes relations uneasy. The Russians have long worried about the Chinese pushing north into Siberia to relieve their ever-expanding population pressure. For Putin to play an American card against China is to his advantage.

For the United States, relations with China will continue to be testy as the Chinese seek to drive the United States out of Asia. Chinese officials, from President Jiang Zemin on down, never miss a chance to poke the United States about the question of Taiwan, the island over which Beijing claims sovereignty. Washington says the future of Taiwan must be determined peaceably and in accord with the wishes of the people on Taiwan.

All told, better relations with Russia is clearly in the interest of the United States. In delaying three missile tests, President Bush has paid a small price to move things along.

An ecosystem ruined
is gone forever

The issue: Culprits ignore a conservation
designation as they cut down koa trees illegally.

A few koa trees that once graced the slopes of Mauna Loa perhaps exist now as a bowl to decorate a home or a bench in the hallway of a state office building. It seems a small matter in the larger scheme of things. Besides, the trees can't be pieced together again and stuck back in the forest.

That is exactly the point: Once part of an ecosystem is destroyed, it cannot be replaced. That is why the state has designated critical places as conservation areas. When someone ignores that designation, punishment should be severe.

In a case at hand, koa trees have been illegally cut down on the Damon Estate's Kahuku Ranch on the Big Island. The Department of Land and Natural Resources has yet to determine how many have been harvested but officials say no permits were obtained for the logging. The illegal logging was brought to the state's attention by a man on the Big Island as only a handful of enforcement officers oversee conservation lands that cover 50 percent of Hawaii.

Although the state has set conservation designations, it does little else to protect the land. An enforcement official said that the incident at Kahuku Ranch is probably just one of scores of illegal activities, but the agency is without the live bodies and equipment needed for constant surveillance.

Further, there should be a recognition that ruining the landscape may be forever. The Bush administration has failed to confront this in its reversal of protections of public land from mining last week. The mining policy gave the government the ability to reject a permit for a mine on federal lands if it would cause "substantial and irreparable harm" to the environment. Mining companies now have free rein to dig for minerals where they want as long as they put up a bond to pay for clean-up costs when they finish.

The fallacy is that a mess can be cleansed. Idaho faces a 20- to 30-year task of clearing arsenic, lead dust, tailings and contaminated soil accumulated from silver mining. The cost so far is $200 million and there's no estimate on how much more will be needed. There's also no guarantee that the contaminants can ever be removed completely.

A few koa trees cut down pale in comparison, but like the once-pristine Idaho landscape, they are gone forever. No amount of ingenuity -- Yankee or otherwise -- can restore them.

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

Don Kendall, President

Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;
Richard Halloran, editorial page director, 529-4790;
John Flanagan, contributing editor 294-3533;

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