- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Chinese power

On his last visit to South America, Foreign Minister George Yeo of Singapore was overwhelmed by the effect of China, which is investing aggressively across the continent.

From Brazil to Peru, China is discussing plans to build railroads and ports to facilitate trade and political influence.

“I was struck by the explosion of interest in China,” he said of his visit last year for a trade summit in Chile. “I left South America even more convinced that the rising Chinese tide leaves no shore, however distant, unaffected.”

Mr. Yeo, on a visit to Washington this month, told the annual conference of the Council of the Americas that China’s new economic clout in Asia is “earth-shaking.”

Jorge Batlle, a former president of Uruguay, told Mr. Yeo that China is reversing history, noting that “Columbus came to America in search of the China trade.”

Last year, President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva of Brazil and President Nestor Kirchner of Argentina visited China, Mr. Yeo added.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told Mr. Yeo that “the South American continent would finally be opened up in this century the way North America was in the 19th century.” China has offered to help build ports on the Pacific coast and railroads across the Andes Mountains in return for a long-term supply of soybeans, minerals and other commodities, Mr. Yeo said.

Latin America is trading aggressively with many Asian nations, he said, citing free-trade agreements between Chile and South Korea, Mexico and Japan, and Peru and Singapore.

China, however, remains the largest single market, as well as the most daunting political challenge, Mr. Yeo said.

“The political implications of these economic trends are earth-shaking,” he said. “Within East Asia itself, the re-emergence of China as Asia’s dominant power is causing great discomfort to Japan, creating the tension we see today.”

Mr. Yeo said China’s growth presents a particular problem for the United States.

“Keeping the triangular relationship of the U.S., China and Japan in dynamic balance will test the wisdom of their leaders in the next 10 to 20 years. Solving peacefully the problems of North Korea and the Taiwan Strait depends critically on this,” he said.

“If the re-emergence of China on a global stage is mismanaged, the consequences will be immense.”

Mr. Yeo urged China to recognize the responsibilities it will inherit as a global economic power.

“China must understand the enormous pressure its growth is generating in the international system and redress the concerns of smaller countries and major powers alike,” he said.

Argentine security

The U.S. ambassador to Argentina yesterday praised the country for joining a U.S. program to inspect container cargo.

“This is a tangible way of demonstrating our confidence in Argentina’s commitment to combat terrorism,” Ambassador Lino Gutierrez told reporters in the capital, Buenos Aires.

Under the program, Argentina will allow U.S. customs agents to conduct security checks on containers shipped from Buenos Aires. Argentina also plans to buy nine mobile scanners and three fixed scanners to X-ray containers.

“Argentina is the first country in Latin America to join with us in this container-security initiative,” the U.S. ambassador said.

The United States has similar arrangements in 36 other foreign ports.

Iraq envoy nominated

President Bush has nominated Zalmay Khalilzad, a former ambassador to Afghanistan, to be the next ambassador to Iraq, the Associated Press reports.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Khalilzad, born in Afghanistan, would succeed former Ambassador John D. Negroponte in Baghdad. Mr. Negroponte has been appointed as the national intelligence chief.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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