- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2000

Colombia wants more

Colombian Ambassador Luis Moreno hopes the Bush administration can pull together at least one bipartisan coalition to support more money for his country to fight drug smugglers.
Mr. Moreno told the Associated Press that Colombia will need $600 million a year in addition to the $1.3 billion Congress approved earlier this year.
"This was a bipartisan policy," he said in a recent interview. "It began as a bipartisan policy and it should remain that way."
The aid package approved in the summer includes helicopters to help Colombia fight Marxist rebels who profit from the drug trade and protect the coca fields and cocaine laboratories.
The Clinton administration tied the use of the helicopters to combat guerrillas linked to the cocaine trade, not for the Colombian military to use to fight the broader civil war.
The AP, however, noted that some Republicans hope President-elect George W. Bush will drop that restriction and allow Colombian President Andres Pastrana a freer hand with U.S. military aid if current peace talks fail.

Thinking about Japan

Kazuo Kodama has discovered he has to look beyond the platitudes to discover what Americans really think of Japan.

Mr. Kodama, the Japanese Embassy's press spokesman, noted that 79 percent of Americans had a favorable view of Japan in a Gallup poll earlier this year.

However, the Japan specialists and the media tell a different story.

"Once the favorable view of Japan they maintain on the surface is broached, some are disinterested, skeptical or even critical with respect to Japan," Mr. Kodama said in a short paper he prepared for the embassy.

"Even though Japan-U.S. relations are good, at the same time some have argued that today Japan-U.S. relations lie outside the real interest of the American general public."

Mr. Kodama noted that Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Mann wrote that Japan's "politics are predictable and soporific, its economy can't shake off stagnation, and its leadership seems moribund."

Mr. Kodama believes that the lack of interest is related to the lack of an economic challenge posed by Japan.

"Japan, no longer posing an economic threat, lost some priority," he said.

On the security front, however, Japan specialists and U.S. officials strongly support a strengthening of the U.S.-Japanese military alliance.

They even want Japan to abandon its military neutrality and "play an expanded role in Asia and the Pacific," Mr. Kodama said.

"They argue that Japan must accept the responsibility for taking positive military roles, including the exercise of collective self-defense," he said.

Change in Bahrain

The Bahraini Embassy had something special to celebrate at its annual national day with the promise of democracy in the hereditary Persian Gulf emirate.

"This year's national day was especially important and historical," Bahraini Ambassador Mohammad Abdul Ghaffar said at a diplomatic reception last week.

He made sure his guests were aware that Emir Sheik Hamad bin Isa Khalifa has promised he will hold municipal elections in February and "gradually install a fully elected parliament."

"The emir has a vision for real political development in Bahrain that depends on active political participation of all Bahraini citizens," Mr. Ghaffar said.

A committee appointed last month will propose a new constitution for Bahrain and "analyze and examine various political and economic issues and social affairs" facing the country, he said.

President Clinton is among those world leaders who have recognized the reforms undertaken by Sheik Hamad since he succeeded his father, Sheik Isa bin Salman Khalifa, who died last year.

Mr. Clinton sent a message to Sheik Hamad in October to praise his historic appointments to the emir's advisory council. They include women and non-Muslims for the first time.

Mr. Clinton called the appointments "a positive step in boosting democracy."

At the reception, Mr. Ghaffar said the reforms are part of the emir's "vision to prepare Bahrain to fit itself into the new era of globalization."

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