- The Washington Times - Monday, January 20, 2003

New York Times

China's new generation of Communist leaders seems determined to pick up where its aging mentors left off, by putting peaceful protest leaders on trial for their lives. Court proceedings began last week against Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang, two labor activists from the city of Liaoyang, in northeast China's rust belt, who last year led huge worker protests demanding unpaid wages and benefits. Such demonstrations are perfectly legal under the Chinese Constitution. But the widely covered Liaoyang events embarrassed Beijing, and Mr. Yao and Mr. Xiao were charged with subversion, which carries a potential death penalty.

Beijing's refusal to tolerate legal, nonviolent protests mocks its claims to uphold the rule of law and could encourage more-unruly expressions of discontent. …

Last month Beijing released Xu Wenli, its most prominent political prisoner, for medical treatment in America. While more humane than continued imprisonment, such gestures deprive the democracy movement of some of its most courageous leaders. Mr. Yao and Mr. Xiao, who committed no crime beyond seeking justice for their fellow workers, should be acquitted and allowed to return home to Liaoyang.

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Boston Globe

President Bush came to power professing a sensible intention to improve relations with America's allies. However, his missteps leading to a confrontation with the impoverished totalitarian regime in North Korea are causing US alliances in Asia to fray.

Bush's inclusion of Pyongyang in a rhetorical ''axis of evil,'' his touting of preemptive war, and his refusal to negotiate a non-aggression pact with North Korea threaten to set off a chain reaction in Asia that does not augur well for US interests or for regional stability.

The most evident effect of Bush's mishandling of North Korea can be seen in South Korea. The president-elect of that vibrant democracy, Roh Moo Hyun, campaigned as a leader who would continue the ''sunshine policy'' of reconciliation with Pyongyang that his predecessor, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kim Dae Jung, initiated. Roh's campaign was not anti-American, but it did appeal to young South Koreans who felt that Bush's gratuitous rejection of the sunshine policy could endanger their country. They were right; it has. …

It is crucial that Bush repair some of the damage he has done to relations with South Korea. He must also avoid the regional arms race that would be provoked if North Korea resumed missile tests and its efforts to produce nuclear weapons. That is a path leading to a cycle of militarization in Japan — with the ultimate danger of its going nuclear — and a responsive military buildup in China. To prevent such a nightmare and preserve America's alliances in Asia, Bush must heed the allies' advice.

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Washington Times

The steel industry has long been an unmovable force, unable to adapt to changing market conditions for a variety of reasons. But lately, the sector has started to stir. It appears American steel may not go the way of the railroad after all. Companies are taking strategic measures to become more competitive in the global marketplace — a sign that President Bush's decision last year to erect temporary tariff barriers, in reaction to worldwide protectionist measures, has given companies the ability and will to restructure.

U.S. Steel announced last week its intention to buy National Steel. International Steel Group has made a takeover bid for Bethlehem Steel. Last year, Nucor Steel acquired Birmingham Steel, and W.L. Ross & Co. bought the liquidated assets of LTV Corp. Over the next couple of years, there could be 10-20 mergers in the sector.

There are a number of factors that have facilitated this restructuring, and Mr. Bush's decision to create a more level playing field for American steel is one. In March, the United States imposed steel tariffs of up to 30 percent for three years. Developing countries, such as South Korea, Brazil, India, Egypt and Mexico, were wisely exempted from the tariff increase.

Mr. Bush's decision to erect the tariffs was widely depicted as a politically pragmatic move to shore up support in key steel producing states. …

So, while it is apparent that the Bush White House made the right decision, the industry nonetheless could become dependent on tariff protection. Policymakers, then, must hold serious deliberations before conceding to the industry's latest demand to erect new tariffs on steel from developing countries.

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Washington Post

One year ago, as Argentina wallowed through one of the worst economic and political storms in its history, two outcomes were commonly forecast: Either its weak government would muster the strength to formulate and implement a stabilization program approved by the International Monetary Fund, or the country would plunge into an abyss of hyperinflation, plummeting production and, possibly, political chaos. In fact, neither has happened. President Eduardo Duhalde, who took office after three previous presidents resigned in short succession, has failed to develop a coherent plan for rebuilding Argentina's financial system or restoring its prospects for growth. Yet Argentina has also avoided collapse: In the past few months the economy has stabilized, though at a level far below that of the 1990s, and there has been no renewal of mass unrest. This minimalist muddling-through can't last; at best it might serve until presidential elections are held and a new leader replaces Mr. Duhalde on May 25. In an attempt to make that outcome more likely, the Bush administration and several of its Group of Seven allies have strong-armed the IMF into signing an agreement that will roll over $6 billion of Argentina's debt. It's a risky maneuver that may backfire. …

The new agreement gives Argentina only enough money to roll over its debts to the IMF between now and August, in exchange for a promise of continued fiscal austerity. But Mr. Duhalde's government is hailing the accord as a breakthrough that takes the country "out of intensive care" and vindicates his hardball negotiating tactics. His economy minister has proclaimed, wrongly, that the country's economic crisis is over. Bush administration officials are supposing that the IMF will induce the new president to commit to more serious reforms in exchange for another agreement next summer. Yet it seems just as likely that the winner among the leading candidates — none of whom is seriously committed to free-market economic policies — will conclude that adopting Mr. Duhalde's intransigence is preferable to swallowing the IMF's medicine. In that case, Argentina, the IMF and the Bush administration will soon be at loggerheads again — and real solutions to Argentina's problems will be further postponed.

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Dallas Morning News

In 1972, the United States was preoccupied with the Cold War in Europe, the hot war in Vietnam and economic and political turmoil at home. So when El Salvador's generals nullified an election that would have brought a center-left coalition to power, Washington barely noticed. If Washington had defended Salvadoran democracy, an atrocious civil war might have been avoided.

Bernard Aronson, who was assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs under President George H. W. Bush, tells the story because he sees disturbing parallels with the present. A presidential administration that is rightly absorbed with thwarting Islamic terrorism and halting the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons is behaving as if it can afford to let Latin America drift. But it cannot. Because, as Mr. Aronson says, "the greatest mistake the United States has made toward Latin America has been failing to pay attention before problems fester into crises." …

The administration appropriately considers national security to be its highest priority. But unless it learns to drive and change the radio dial at the same time, it will only be tuning into trouble down the road.

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Los Angeles Times

It sounds like a punch line but unfortunately it isn't. As of today, Najat Hajjaji, who represents Moammar Gadhafi's Libya, is chairwoman of the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

What makes this possible is the U.N. regional rotation system for leadership of the commission that leaves the choice purely to nations in each region.

Last year it was Europe's turn, and its delegates to the commission unremarkably chose Poland. This year, African members chose Libya.

Perhaps Libya's contact with the U.N. body will improve human rights for Libyans. But in the future, the United Nations should add a requirement that the commission leader's nation possess a decent record of respecting human rights. A rotation system is not necessarily bad, but it is insufficient. …

Even though her colleagues praise her intelligence and professionalism, Hajjaji is the wrong person for the job because she represents a country whose record on human rights is seriously flawed. The United Nations owes it to the commission's other members to reassess its method of choosing leaders.

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(Compiled by United Press International.)





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