If Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, becomes president, adding his tour of duty in Vietnam to his two decades on Capitol Hill, he will have had more familiarity with East Asian affairs than all other American presidents combined. And yet nine years of close professional observation leads to the inescapable conclusion Mr. Kerry is profoundly wrong about the most important issues in the region.
Arriving in the U.S. Senate in early 1985, Mr. Kerry was assigned to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and showed an immediate interest in matters relating to East Asia. In recent years, he has been chairman or ranking member of the SFRC East Asia Subcommittee. For almost 20 years, he has been in the middle of Capitol Hill’s East Asia considerations attending hundreds of hearings, highly classified briefings and legislative mark-up sessions. Except for his successful effort to defend the communist government of Vietnam’s honor from charges of secretly holding American MIAs, he has no legislative record of note. No significant “Kerry Statutes” or “Kerry amendments” or “Kerry initiatives” come to mind, certainly relating to East Asia.
While Mr. Kerry is not the only senator without a positive record, it is his position on Communist China that is the most troubling — the nature of the Communist Chinese regime, its espionage assault on the United States, China’s role as the world’s leading proliferator of Weapons of Mass Destruction and its increasing military threat against Taiwan.
The Communist Chinese regime: At an SFRC hearing on June 27, 2001, Mr. Kerry got into a strange debate with Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, over whether China has a “communist government.” Mr. Kerry held that it does not have a “communist government” anymore, a position no serious China scholar would support.
He further argued the dictatorial regimes of East Asia calling themselves “communist” do so “more for historical purposes” and do not represent “any kind of current reality.” Perhaps the most brilliant account of the present depredations by the Chinese Communist Party against the people of China is found in an essay by Princeton Professor Perry Link in the current issue of China Rights Forum. Professor Link likens China today to “a fetid swamp of suppression and lies.”
Chinese espionage: In 1998 I reported (“Year of the Rat,” Regnery), and this year NBC News confirmed, Mr. Kerry’s unfortunate relationship with Chinese military intelligence. During the 1996 election cycle, Chinagate figure Johnny Chung made a $10,000 contribution to Mr. Kerry’s campaign in return for arranging a high-level meeting at the Securities and Exchange Commission. The beneficiary of Mr. Kerry’s assistance was Chinese military spy Lt. Col. Liu Chao-ying. NBC has a photograph of the Communist Chinese espionage agent with Mr. Kerry, taken in his office.
China’s role in proliferation: Recently, Mr. Kerry told the press that if he became president, Communist China would become the “principal partner” in his antiproliferation efforts. This conveniently ignores Beijing’s role as the world principal proliferator of WMDs, something Mr. Kerry should know, given his attendance at highly classified briefings. Without China’s illicit arms sales and WMD technology transfers, neither North Korea nor Iran would be significantly threats to anyone. When Libya turned over its secret nuclear weapons plans earlier this year, American specialists were astonished to discover they were written in Chinese.
Taiwan: Barely a day goes by that Communist China does not issue another threat against Taiwan. This year’s Pentagon report on Chinese army power has a new section on Taiwan that can only be described as “grim.” Many Western observers of the People’s Liberation Army believe January 2005 will begin a dangerous period in East Asia as the military balance in the Taiwan Strait tilts to the communists. President Bush’s response to these threats has been to declare the United States would do “whatever it takes” to help defend Taiwan. Not only has Mr. Kerry never made a statement of comparable forcefulness in defense of Taiwan, the draft of the Democratic Party Platform under Mr. Kerry fails to indicate support for U.S. law — the Taiwan Relations Act. Al Gore’s DNC platform had such support in 2000. Further, on Jan. 6, 2004, Mr. Kerry declared that the way to resolve the cross-straits tension is to “push” Taiwan to accept the communists’ “One country, two systems” proposal. One only has to ask the Tibetans and the people of Hong Kong what it’s really like under “One country, two systems.”
In short, at the very moment, January 2005, when a President John Kerry would be inaugurated, East Asia will enter its most dangerous period in several decades. And, the Western Alliance could be led by an American president who doesn’t understand the evil nature of communism in China, has no problem doing favors for Communist Chinese military intelligence (if the price is right), does not know of Beijing’s role as the world’s No. 1 proliferator and intends to force appeasement on Taiwan.
William C. Triplett II was a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s East Asia Subcommittee from 1985 through 1993.