- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2000

Taiwan deal

Washington supporters of arms sales to Taiwan are worried that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott is about to cut a deal that will scuttle the House-passed Taiwan Security Enhancement Act.

According to congressional and administration officials, Mr. Lott is proposing to quietly kill a bill that would strengthen U.S. ties to Taiwan's military, in exchange for a Clinton administration promise to sell four Aegis destroyers to Taiwan.

The legislation passed the House by a wide margin last month. A Senate version sponsored by Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, and Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, is awaiting debate. Both the White House and the Chinese government vehemently oppose it.

Under the Lott compromise plan, two of the $1 billion Aegis warships would be built in Mr. Lott's home state of Mississippi and two others will be built in Maine, home state of Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

The internal debate over this year's annual arms sales request is set to begin soon. The Aegis ship sales are being opposed by pro-Beijing officials in the White House and State Department.

To allay Chinese fears, some in the Pentagon want to offer the Taiwanese a "dumbed-down" version of the state-of-the-art battle management systems on the ships. The less-capable Aegis ships would exclude missile defense-capable software and hardware, and Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles.

Counsel on hold

Speaking of Taiwan arms sales, the Senate nomination of Douglas Dworkin to be the Pentagon's new general counsel is on hold. Sen. Robert C. Smith notified the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee that he will delay a vote on the Defense Department's top lawyer.

Mr. Smith said in a letter to Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, the hold will stay on until the Clinton administration actually works with Congress, as required by law, on Taiwan's annual arms sales request. "There has been no consultation," Mr. Smith said.

He noted that in March a closed session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was called to hear officials tell about the Taiwan arms sales plan, but Pentagon and State Department witnesses refused to show up.

Mr. Smith, New Hampshire Republican, also said he is blocking the Dworkin nomination because of the Pentagon's investigation into disclosures of confidential information from Pentagon security files on Linda R. Tripp that he said has been "inexplicably stalled." An official told the Senate yesterday the Justice Department sat on a Pentagon inspector general report for 20 months.

Not Golan-bound

For once, it doesn't seem that U.S. troops will be needed if a major peace treaty is signed. A well-placed administration official tells us the Pentagon and White House are concluding that if an Israeli-Syrian peace deal is inked, American soldiers won't be needed to patrol strategically important Golan Heights.

Instead, the official said, planners are increasingly looking at the option of stationing an international contingent of civilians as Golan monitors.

The reasons:

For one, the Golan Heights has been one of Israel's quietest borders the past 25 years. If Syria desires any covert actions against its enemy, it typically does the dirty work via guerrillas in south Lebanon

Secondly, it is civilians, not military peacekeepers, who do the real work in enforcing the Israeli-Egyptian accord. The civilians regularly visit each side's military bases to verify the treaty's restrictions.

Finally, the U.S. military is already stretched thin, pulled by peace-enforcement missions in the Balkans, the Persian Gulf, South Korea and other hot spots.

"Both sides would have vested interests in maintaining the peace and protecting the monitors," the administration official said. "There is no reason to think that terrorists from either side would target the group."

U.S. troops broke a peacetime record in the 1990s, going on 48 overseas deployments, or contingencies, at a cost of $30 billion.

President Clinton had promised a U.S. troop deployment if Israel and Syria achieved peace. But it appears unlikely a deal will come during Mr. Clinton's last year in office, after the snubbing he took in Geneva from Syrian President Hafez Assad.

Butt out

We have come across one of the military's stiffest no-smoking policies. It's not enforced in politically correct America, but in a critically important Air Force compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The place is Eskan Village, which replaced the terrorist-destroyed Kobar barracks. At the village, planners write the daily tasking order for Operation Southern Watch. The operation enforces a no-fly zone over southern Iraq.

The anti-tobacco policy states:

"Smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco is prohibited: Inside all structures including villas, warehouses, tents and all indoor or outdoor work centers. While walking, running, bicycling or driving while in uniform. When seated in vehicles or attending outdoor sporting events. While eating in or standing in the immediate area of the Mirage dining facility. Units will establish a designated smoking area for smokers and users of smokeless tobacco products. Smokers must use butt cans to dispose of waste products."

One officer here in the states grumbles that the rules go too far.

"Big Brother has arrived and taken over," he said.

China's nukes

Coinciding with fresh charges that U.S. satellite companies boosted China's nuclear missile force, a report was released Thursday on China's growing nuclear program. A key finding on what is known about China's nukes: We don't know very much.

"Rigorous analysis of China's strategic capabilities is hindered by the tight lid of military secrecy Beijing maintains over virtually all information regarding its nuclear program," the report says. "The problem is not only a lack of transparency, however; concealment and deception appear to be integral to China's approach to the entire range of issues associated with its nuclear posture."

Almost all the 26 analysts who produced the report are noted soft-liners on China, including the National Defense University's resident China expert Ronald Montaperto. Another author is David Shambaugh. Readers of this column will remember him as the would-be Pentagon consultant who was praised recently by China's official military newspaper for providing "background" intelligence on American specialists on China.

The liberal bias of the paper is evident. It opposes deploying U.S. missile defenses, both regional and national. The authors say fielding missile defenses will cause China to increase vastly its nuclear forces.

Despite the paucity of intelligence on China's nuclear arsenal, the report highlights China's vigorous strategic nuclear modernization program. Beijing is upgrading its stockpile of 400 nuclear warheads and about 20 long-range strategic missiles. The effort includes:

• Greater range, payload and accuracy through the use of solid fuel, better rocket motors and better targeting techniques.

• Greater survivability of its nuclear force through road-mobile missiles, silo hardening, camouflage and concealment.

• Development of alternative nuclear delivery systems, such as cruise missiles and new ballistic missile submarines.

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