- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

Tibet fallout

The Chinese military crackdown in Tibet is raising questions about whether the Bush administration should go ahead with assistance to China’s military for security measures at the Olympic Games this summer, defense officials said yesterday.

China has asked for advice and security equipment, some of which involves U.S. military gear, for the games and the request has set off an internal debate.

Pro-China officials favor providing the help and some military gear, arguing that President Bush will attend the opening ceremony in August and thus boosting Olympic security would benefit the United States.

Other officials opposed to the support say the U.S. military, in particular, should not help and is restricted by Congress from supporting foreign police activities because of past concerns over U.S. backing for Latin American security services that had links to death squads.

“The suppression of the monks supports blocking the Chinese request,” said one official.

Some administration officials have sought to deflect criticism of the Chinese military, claiming the troops and armored cars used against unarmed protesters in Tibet are from the People's Armed Police (PAP), the Soviet-style internal security forces, and not the People’s Liberation Army, as the military is called.

However, officials said there are signs the Chinese military is involved in backing the security force, and that both armed forces are under the control of the Central Military Commission, headed by Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon this week activated its new hot line with China's military, but questions are being raised about whether the communications link is working. A test this week will determine whether Chinese military leaders will actually answer the phone and not ignore U.S. military calls as in the past.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said he is not aware that the Pentagon is coordinating with the Chinese military on Olympic security.

However, he stated: “The U.S. government traditionally works with Olympic host nations to offer whatever support they can to security efforts.”

Diplomatic response

Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill this week defended the administration’s response to the Chinese military crackdown in Tibet and western China that is limited to diplomatic protests.

“I realize when you see people getting killed in these things, calls for restraint don’t look adequate, but such is the nature of this issue,” Mr. Hill, in charge of East Asia policy, said Tuesday during an interview with reporters and editors of The Washington Times.

The U.S. diplomatic protests were lodged by U.S. Ambassador to Beijing Clark Randt, and in telephone calls from senior officials to the Chinese, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

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