- Last week, Hong Kong's Cheng Ming newspaper quoted Chinese
Defense Minister Chi Haotian as saying war with the United States is
- "Seen from the changes in the world situation and
United States' hegemonic strategy for creating monopolarity, war is
inevitable," Mr. Chi told a military conference in early
- "We cannot avoid it," he was quoted in the
as saying. "The issue is that the Chinese armed forces must
control the initiative in this war. . . . We must be prepared to fight
for one year, two years, three years or even longer."
- China Called A Threat At Canal Pentagon
On Panama Contradicts White House
- By Bill Gertz
The Washington Times
- A Pentagon intelligence report
calls Chinese influence
over the Panama Canal a potential threat to
U.S. national security.
- The released portions of the three-page report
claims by administration officials that the presence of the
of China near the strategic waterway poses no threat
to U.S. national security
- "Hutchison Whampoa Ltd.'s
facilities in the Panama Canal, as well as the
Bahamas, could provide a
conduit for illegal shipments of technology or
prohibited items from the
West to the PRC, or facilitate the movement
of arms and other prohibited
items into the Americas," according
to a declassified report by the
U.S. Southern Command's Joint
- "Any potential threat posed by the presence of a
pro-Chinese corporate entity in the Panama Canal zone is indirect,"
the report states.
- President Clinton said in November that the Chinese pose
threat to the canal and are "bending over backwards to make sure
that they run it in a competent and able and fair manner."
- A White House
spokesman said later the president had
misspoken when he said China
will operate the strategic waterway.
- The Pentagon had also
previously said it had no fear
of the ports being run by a subsidiary
of a Hong Kong-based company with
extensive Beijing ties.
- "We do not see the Ch
inese-owned port facilities
as a military or a national-security
threat," Pentagon spokesman Kenneth
Bacon said in August.
- However, the Pentagon
intelligence report states that
the economic power conferred by the
Hutchison Whampoa ports at either end
of the Panama Canal and in the
Bahamas would give China leverage over Panama,
which has diplomatic
ties with rival Taiwan.
- "For example, Hutchison Whampoa could threaten to
shift some business from Panama to its Free Trade Zone in the Bahamas,
thus giving the company additional leverage over the Panamanian
the report said.
- The Oct. 26 report is an
of China's interests and activities
in Panama. The document, stamped "secret,"
was censored to
prevent disclosure of intelligence activities or military
- The Washington public interest group Judicial Watch made
report public after it was obtained under the Freedom of Information
Clinton administration has dismissed those concerns
and said the United
States reserves the right under the Panama Canal Treaty
to retake the
canal by military force if necessary.
- The report, heavily censored,
makes no mention of the
strategic importance of the canal to U.S.
military operations in the event
the Pentagon is called on to defend
Taiwan from a Chinese attack.
- Long-term military operations to resupply U.S. forces
in the Pacific in such a conflict make the access to the canal
to military planning, one Pentagon official
week, Hong Kong's Cheng Ming newspaper quoted Chinese
Chi Haotian as saying war with the United States is inevitable.
- "Seen from the
changes in the world situation and
the United States' hegemonic
strategy for creating monopolarity, war is
inevitable," Mr. Chi
told a military conference in early December.
- "We cannot avoid it,"
he was quoted in the
newspaper as saying. "The issue is that the
Chinese armed forces must
control the initiative in this war. . . . We
must be prepared to fight
for one year, two years, three years or even
- Release of the intelligence report is likely to renew
debate over threats to the canal, which reverted to Panamanian government
control Dec. 31. The U.S. military gave up several strategic military
in the turnover.
- According to the intelligence report, the two ports near
entrances at each end of the Panama Canal were leased for 25 years by the
Panama Ports Co., a Hutchison Whampoa subsidiary. The company also has
the option to renew the leases for a second 25 years.
- The People's Republic of China
has "no direct ownership"
of the companies involved in
running the Pacific port of Balboa and the
Atlantic port of Cristobal,
the report said. It also states that neither
Hutchison nor Panama Ports
are directly involved in day-to-day operations
of the canal "at
- According to the report, the Panama Ports Co.'s contract
includes tugboat operations, ship repair and pilot services within the
- "It is unlikely that Panama Ports Co. officials
employees would overtly sabotage or damage the canal on orders from
Beijing, as it would be contrary to their own financial interests and
undoubtedly elicit an immediate response from the U.S. and the
community," the report said.
- However, Hutchison's owner,
Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-Shing,
"has extensive business ties in
Beijing and has compelling financial
reasons to maintain a good
relationship with China's leadership,"
the report said.
- The declassified
report suggested that China's economic
inroads into Panama threaten
Taiwan's international standing.
- "Economic influence equals
political leverage and
in some Latin American countries PRC and Taiwan
competition for influence
is running head to head," the report
said. "Currently, 16 of
the 30 countries worldwide which
diplomatically recognize Taiwan are located
- During a Senate hearing in October on Chinese activities
Panama, several administration witnesses testified that Chinese control
of the Panamanian ports is not a problem. They also said they did not know
if Beijing uses commercial entities to advance its military
- Marine Corps Gen. Charles E. Wilhelm, the commander in
the U.S. Southern Command, however, told the Senate Armed Services
Committee hearing he believes China does use businesses for military
- Gen. Wilhelm said there is "no evidence" the
has been targeted by terrorists or foreign governments, although
viewed as a potential target.
- Gen. Wilhelm, perhaps echoing the classified assessment,
stated that China's goals in Panama are "less a local threat to the
canal and more a regional threat posed by expanding Chinese influence
- Other experts see increased
Chinese commercial activities
in this hemisphere as providing Beijing
with a potential base for anti-U.S.
subversion during a future conflict
with the United States.
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