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DAGAinfo

8 February 2000
No. 100


In this issue:
  1. FEATURE
    Asia and U.S. Foreign and National Security Policy
  2. NEWS in Brief
    Korea -  Civil Action for 2000 General Election report names 67 politicians
    Hong Kong - Indonesian Migrant Workers' Union officially launched
    Thiland - UN warns protesters must be heard at Bangkok trade meet
    Burma - 250 Karen refugees flee fighting in Burma.
  3. Urgent APPEALS
    Philippines: ACTION ALERT FOR LAND STRUGGLE
  4. ANNOUNCEMENT

 

1. FEATURE - top
 

Asia and U.S. Foreign and National Security Policy

by Doug Bereuter, Chairman,
Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific

 

INORTHEAST ASIA PEACE AND SECURITY NETWORK
***** SPECIAL REPORT *****

The following is the complete text of a speech by US Representative Doug Bereuter, Republican-Nebraska, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the House International Relations Committee. Bereuter discussed US policy and interests in Asia, including the alliances with Japan and the ROK, and potential challenges from the DPRK, the PRC, Indonesia, India, and Pakistan.

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Asia and U.S. Foreign and National Security Policy
Doug Bereuter, Chairman,
Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
February 2, 2000


Good Afternoon. The topic Lee Hamilton and Bob Hathaway asked me to speak on, "Asia in U.S. Foreign and National Security Policy in the Next Millennium" certainly constitutes a daunting task. However, I will take a modest stab at it in the limited time we have here today, highlighting just a few areas: The solid foundation we have through our alliances with Japan, Australia and Korea, and what I see as the principal challenges facing us in North Korea, China, Indonesia, India and Pakistan.

I see the Asia-Pacific region, with over one-half of the world's population, as one in which we, as Americans, undoubtedly will face many new challenges. Permit me, for the record, first state what should be obvious to most American and Asian observers: the United States plays a very important and positive role in the overall security of east and southeast Asia -- and in certain other parts of Asia. Our presence is welcomed as a stabilizing and relatively benign influence in the region by virtually all the Asian nations in the region, including, I believe, at this state, by China. In fact, perhaps the only country in Asia that does not welcome America's interest and commitment to the region is North Korea. But for the United States to continue to play an important role in Asia, we must to some degree rely upon on -- and further strengthen -- the stable alliances and friendships we have in the area.

The most important of these alliances is with Japan. Our relationship has grown strong and rather comprehensive. Looking at the economic relationship, too, for example, in one area, namely trade, Japan ranks third only to Canada and Mexico as the largest single-country market for U.S. exports. Indeed, 20% of all U.S. agricultural exports go to Japan, meaning that Japan is a larger agricultural export market than the 15-countries of the European Union. Japan is also one of the largest sources of
foreign portfolio capital and of foreign direct investment in the U.S. Likewise, the United States is the largest source of foreign portfolio capital and direct investment in Japan.

JAPAN

In terms of national security cooperation, I would say that our relationship with Japan is excellent and even stronger than it was a few years ago. One of the most important matters related to Asian security is something that has almost totally escaped public attention in the United States -- the successful renegotiation of the "Defense Cooperation Guidelines." This agreement clarifies and expands Japan's role in helping maintain peace and security in Northeast Asia. It sets forth in sufficient detail what we can expect from Japan if fighting erupts on the Korean peninsula. The Guidelines chart a course for a Japan which is much more confident and secure about its own future.

Today, it is impossible to overstate Japan's importance to the U.S. in Asia. Japan is host to about half of the 100,000 uniformed personnel that the United States maintains in Asia and the Western Pacific. Yokosuka (pronounced as "Yokuska" by Americans), Japan, is the only overseas "homeport" for a U.S. aircraft carrier task force. With the recent agreement to move the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Okinawa to a less populated part of the island, this growing irritant in local relations now, it would seem, is being addressed -- at least on an interim period of some duration. In terms of export controls and arms sales, Japan has the same status with the U.S. as that which we have with our NATO allies. Now, too, Japan has decided to invest and participate in the U.S. theater missile defense program, a decision that was no doubt prompted by North Korea's missile tests.

Given this crucial and powerful U.S.-Japan relationship, I believe that, unfortunately, Japan has not received the attention it deserves from the Clinton Administration. This is probably best exemplified by President Clinton's highly publicized June 1998 visit to China which he made without the customary and expected stop in Japan. This was commonly perceived as a snub in Japan. At present, our relationship continues to be marked by a sense of drift. Even though Japan is, indeed, our most important ally in Asia, the U.S. strategic dialogue with Tokyo lately has been all too limited. The appearance -- certainly to influential Japanese -- is that the Clinton Administration has no clear
vision of what role it really wants Japan to play in Asia and world affairs. Consultations tend to be pro-forma and meetings scripted. Current U.S. decision-makers consequently have a poor understanding of what Japan's leaders are genuinely thinking, making it all the more difficult to interpret security and economic decisions in Tokyo. However, I believe that, overall, this appearance of indifference is both temporary and unintentional. With the proper attention by the Administration, and with obvious support from the Congress, I believe that our bilateral relations on all fronts (defense, political, economic) will and must continue to be strengthened, even though trade conflicts may grab the headlines from time to time.

AUSTRALIA

The other very important strategic ally for America in Asia is the country in the region with which we have our deepest friendship -- Australia. Given that "our cousins Down Under" do not have the same constitutional constraints as Japan regarding the deployment abroad of military forces, Australia has unfailingly joined the U.S. in protecting our mutual national security interests around the globe, including combat in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. Just as importantly, Australia, unlike some of our European NATO allies, has responsibly taken the initiative to provide stability and security in its own neighborhood. This is best exemplified by Australia's primary leadership role with the INTERFET force in East Timor.

I envision a strengthening of both Australia's regional role and US-Australian relations in the years to come. Our alliance with Australia and, in reality with its people, does not always elicit much attention, but it is one of America's crucial strategic partners. Indeed, there are things that Australia can do to promote American interests and our mutual interests that the U.S. cannot do for itself. Some are obvious; others are best left undescribed. We should pay more attention to this friendship with the Australians and do more to show our appreciation of this special relationship.

"THE KOREAS"

A third strong pillar of support for U.S. national security interests in Asia remains the Republic of Korea. Forged in blood during the Korean War, our special relationship has gradually evolved from that of American guardianship to one that today reflects a relatively more balanced defense alliance. In fact, given the highly unpredictable and seemingly reckless nature of the xenophobic regime in Pyongyang, I continue to rank the Korean Peninsula as the most dangerous tinderbox on earth -- yes, equal to the Middle East. Working closely and cooperatively with South Korea and Japan, we need to do a better job of lessening North Korea's threat without succumbing, as we are doing increasingly, to Pyongyang's brazen foreign aid extortion schemes.

None of us, I think, can accurately predict what North Korea will do in the future. However, it probably is safe to predict that future DPRK-precipitated confrontations and crises are nearly inevitable. Thus, we should err on the side of caution by treating North Korea's advances with appropriate skepticism and by sending Pyongyang frequent and consistently strong and unambiguous messages about our commitment to South Korea's security and peace on the peninsula.

Former Secretary of Defense William Perry was appointed by the President to make policy recommendations regarding North Korea. As you probably know, he proposed a two-pronged approach. The first prong would be engagement. If the DPRK chooses this route, it could expect increased trade and the gradual elimination of sanctions. If, however, Pyongyang chooses the path of
confrontation, Dr. Perry recommends that North Korea be met with firmness, resolve, and increased military strength.

I believe that Secretary Perry has once again performed admirable service to the nation, and that his basic policy recommendation is sound. I am, however, somewhat concerned that this Administration is so committed to its policy of engagement that few types of DPRK provocations would be deemed sufficiently odious to cause the Administration to conclude it must take the second path. If, for example, the North were to resume its flight testing of ballistic missiles, I believe the Congress would overwhelmingly interpret this as a rejection of engagement. Only time will tell whether the Administration would agree.

You may be aware that I was part of a Speaker-designated Republican task force that examined the threat posed by North Korea. The report concluded that the DPRK's conventional military capability has declined in recent years but that significant evidence exists to strongly suggest that an undeclared nuclear weapons development program continues. I believe that intuitively most sophisticated American observers of North Korea acknowledge that probability. In addition, North Korea's ballistic missile capabilities have increased markedly, with the initial testing of the three-stage Taepo Dong missile. Because North Korea has historically not conducted extensive testing like we do before weapons deployment and because the DPRK is perhaps the most unconstrained proliferator in the world, this poses a security threat that extends far beyond Northeast Asia. While the task force did not offer specific policy recommendations before adjourning the first session of the 106th Congress, despite the desire of certain Members to do so, I believe you can anticipate legislative efforts in the coming year -- soon. The chilling suspicion that crosses the mind is that the North Koreans are only stringing us along -- buying time -- until they are able to deploy these Taepo Dong missiles tipped with weapons of mass destruction which can threaten not only South Korea, of course, but also all of Japan and even parts of the United States.

CHINA

Ranked right after the very real and dangerous security threat posed by North Korea, I believe that the greatest challenge to the United States and our overall national security interests in Asia may well eventually be posed by China. That is not certain. However, I believe it is clear that China intends to be the preeminent regional military force and it will be a powerful economic and political player globally. Given a whole range of factors, I must characterize the nature of our future relations with China to be most uncertain. It is premature to view China as an enemy or adversary, though we could make it our adversary if we adopt a policy of trying to isolate and ostracize China as some in the U.S. and in China do advocate by word or actions. China is certainly not accurately described as "a strategic partner." However, China is, or almost certainly will be, our competitor -- both militarily and economically and we should respectfully treat China as such. It is certainly still possible for the U.S. and China to have a complementary or at least largely compatible future relationship.

Unfortunately, while Sino-American relations are increasingly problematic, they are not a zero-sum game, as some effectively would characterize them. Our relations are complex and comprehensive and will only become more so in the future. Our concerns continue to multiply in scope and gravity: espionage, both illegal and highly questionable campaign contributions, threateningly asymmetrical military modernization, weapons proliferation, abortion, human rights, Tibet, Taiwan, and unfair trade, among others. However, I believe each of these issues needs to be addressed by the appropriate means in the appropriate fora -- not, for example, in the annual congressional debate and vote on a presidential decision to extend Normal Trade Relations (or NTR) to China or granting it permanent NTR for Chinese accession to the World Trade Organization.

While China is a nuclear weapons state and is trying to modernize its conventional forces, we should nevertheless be careful not to overrate its capabilities. The China of today is certainly by no means the Soviet Union of yester-year. China's approximately 20 liquid-fueled nuclear missiles serve only as a deterrent force, and, though it is modernizing, the People's Liberation Army is still a poorly trained, third-rate, infantry-intensive force. Like China's state owned enterprises, the PLA -- as a primary vanguard element of the Communist Party primarily and the defender of the Chinese state faces very difficult (and potentially radical) challenges as it tries to evolve from a Maoist organization to a modern, advanced military force that can project power in the region.

In light of the serious revelations of the Cox Committee, where I served as a member (and here by revelations I mean what we actually concluded and not what embarrassed critics say we said or implied that we said), and based upon other events and information, I personally have concluded that it is now necessary to fundamentally re-examine American foreign policy towards China. Every facet of our relationship needs to be re-evaluated. And, since the Chinese now have an enhanced capacity to produce and weaponize a new generation of missiles with more accurate and powerful weapons of mass destruction -- among other dangerous weapons to which little attention has been drawn -- and here is the important point -- in a much shorter time horizon than we had anticipated, every action we take with respect to the Chinese must be in both our longer term interest and our short-term interest.

We no longer necessarily have the luxury of the long lead-time (20-25 years) we once thought rather certain. We cannot count on economic progress and the inevitable positive changes deeper integration into the international community economic progress will bring to China before they have a new level of threat and regional intimidation capacity. We can no longer afford to be somewhat relaxed about always promptly defending our immediate interests because "time is on our side". We cannot afford to be so careless and trusting that long-term benefits will arrive in time. China is in evolution and its climb up the power curve may be quicker than expected. Therefore, again, for emphasis, a policy of responsible engagement must be centered on protecting and promoting both our short- and long-term national interests on all occasions.

Of course, opportunities for positive change will not occur in all facets of U.S.-China relations at the same time. We should seize opportunities that are in our short- and long-term national interest when they arise. For example, the chance to make great progress on trade problems with China and simultaneously advance economic reform in China is present now available to us with the pending WTO accession agreement. Congress needs to ensure that the United States benefits fully from this milestone opportunity by providing China with permanent Normal Trade Relations (or PNTR) status as soon as possible. It's a deal the President mistakenly said "no" to last April.

At this time, given the fact that China is still negotiating its bilateral agreement with the EU and its accession protocols with the WTO itself, it appears that the earliest Congress would act is in April and, hopefully, at least before June, which is the time the President would have to issue the annual Jackson-Vanik waiver to continue China's current NTR status for another year. Upon issuance of the waiver, the apparently inevitable resolution of disapproval would be considered by the House. I remain hopeful that this year we can replace this frustrating annual ritual with a clean up or down vote on permanent NTR for China. If President Clinton and his Administration pull out all the stops and buck up the courage of House Democrats who are intimidated by organized labor and if candidate Gore reverses his current position to pander to labor before November, we should succeed for America.

There will certainly be opposition to providing China with permanent NTR, though opponents of PNTR in the U.S. have yet to propose any responsible or rational alternative that benefits the United States. Recall that with this agreement we give up nothing. This is an export-oriented agreement in which China makes all the concessions. Of course, it must be understood that opposition to China's accession to the WTO is not limited to critics in the United States. I believe that Premier Zhu Rongji and other leading economic reformers in Beijing see the internal economic restructuring required by China's WTO accession as necessary for sustaining economic growth and, therefore, maintain relative social stability and the Communist Party's current and absolute monopoly on political power. Clearly, they are taking a gamble. Ultimately, I believe that just as economic reform and growth laid the foundation for political liberalization in Taiwan, Korea and elsewhere, Premier Zhu's initiatives, if successful, may mark the beginning of the probably lengthy end of the Communist Party's monopoly.

Certainly, this latter possibility is a traumatizing possibility for the hard-liners in the PLA and elsewhere in the power structure. They are a powerful source of resistance to the pace and scope of Zhu's economic reforms. Zhu is their ideological enemy. Furthermore, despite the highly publicized announcements that the PLA has divested from its numerous business interests throughout China, in reality the PLA remains closely involved with a significant number of the inefficient and bankrupt state-owned enterprises which are targeted for reform and privatization. How the PLA addresses and adapts to the overall economic reforms as well as to its own internal reforms will be an important development to watch. The questions about their reactions certainly do contribute to the uncertainty in Sino-American relations.

TAIWAN-CHINA

Perhaps not fully understood here in the U.S., especially I fear among some of my colleagues in Congress, is the overwhelming fixation or preoccupation Beijing has on the issue of Taiwan. If there is any one issue that could bring the U.S. and China into armed confrontation in the near future, it is Taiwan. This could have occurred in March 1996, when, in the guise of military exercises, the PLA fired missiles that landed in the waters off Taipei thereby resulting in the deployment of two U.S. aircraft carrier task forces to the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan-PRC relations are particularly delicate at this moment because of the presidential elections which will occur in Taiwan on March 18th. With three candidates in a virtual dead heat, there is no way to predict the outcome. However, we need to be very concerned about the possibility of one or more of the candidates, in desperation, playing the "Taiwan independence card." We also need to follow Beijing's response very closely in the aftermath to the elections, for the PRC may well be tempted to test the new leader's resolve. There are too many Sinologists who believe that the Chinese still plan an overt response of some nature to President Lee's "state-to-state" comments.

Finally on this subject, it is important to remember that the Chinese see the possibility or movement to independence in Taiwan as a threat to their sovereignty -- not just in the Taiwan Strait confrontation, but also in Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Hong Kong, and elsewhere in China. In short, this is an issue that merits very careful attention.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives considered and overwhelmingly passed the controversial Taiwan Security Enhancement Act (TSEA). Introduced by Representative Tom DeLay in the House and Senator Jesse Helms in the Senate, the TSEA, as originally introduced, sought to establish a much closer relationship between Taiwan's military and the U.S. armed forces. Some of the provisions in the introduced draft went, I felt, much too far, were ill advised and, in some cases, unnecessary. For example, demonstrating an apparent lack of knowledge, the legislation actually urged the United States to sell diesel submarines to Taiwan. Now we don't make diesel submarines in the United States and haven't for several decades. We no longer have the capacity in this country and the U.S. Navy has every reason to resist recreating such a capability. Diesel submarines, theoretically, might be bought from current producers such as Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Australia or Russia, but not from the U.S.

Similarly, the draft legislation would have mandated an even more generous number of slots for the education and training of additional Taiwanese officers. To do so, however, would have meant reducing the level of training for our own military officers and those of other countries, something that would undermine our own national security. That provision also was altered in Committee as were a number of other significant changes made to other provisions in the draft legislation.

INDONESIA

Let me now turn from Northeast Asia to concerns that emanate from Southeast Asia. Conditions in Indonesia are very troubling. The consequences of further economic and political collapse, including a very real potential for the violent break-up of the country, are extremely serious and would significantly impact regional stability and U.S. national security in a most adverse way. The necessary and painful economic reforms Indonesia must undertake would be daunting even to a well-established democracy. Indonesia must boldly undertake this action while at the same time, with the most minimal experience and direction, undertake massive political reform.

Indonesia, perhaps the most ethnically, religiously, geographically complicated country on earth now has seen serious disintegrative and fratricidal ethnic religious forces emerge in several parts of the country. To date, I believe that President Wahid has exceeded most reasonable and informed international expectations in guiding Indonesia in the right direction and preventing its collapse. In my judgment, the U.S. is correctly providing financial, technical and political support for Indonesia in an effort to bolster these positive efforts. Yet, the separatist attacks in Aceh, the religious riots in Ambon and Lombok, and anti-Chinese pogroms that are occurring with increasing frequency and levels of violence underscore how fragile and volatile the situation is in Indonesia. Given the overall poor state of President Wahid's health, the questions about the ability of Vice-President Megawati to effectively succeed Gus Dur, and given the ambitions of National Assembly Speaker and Islamic Movement leader, Amin Rais, it appears to me that the armed forces will continue, by necessity, to be the ultimate stabilizing force and will, if necessary, act if they deem it necessary to ensure the secular integrity of Indonesia-- just as they have done in the past.

The recent decision by an Indonesian government commission to charge six top Indonesian generals, including General Wiranto, and their militia surrogates for human rights abuses in East Timor certainly is a strong, positive action we must acknowledge. While supporting the investigation and prosecution of those military leaders responsible for human rights violations in East Timor, Aceh and elsewhere has an important bearing on U.S.- Indonesian relations, we must not allow this set of issues alone to halt a proper engagement with Indonesia's military or do crucial damage to our overall relations with this important nation of over 200 million, as was the case with the problems of East Timor. I strongly believe that previous well-intentioned (but in some cases special-interest motivated) congressional actions which were focused on East Timor, such as the suspension of the International Military Education and Training (or IMET) program and the denial to Indonesia of an E-IMET program which was even more specifically aimed at human rights training, have largely been counter-productive and have resulted in America losing overall access and leverage in Indonesia, particularly with the Indonesian military. That was recently made apparent by our limited ability to influence and temper the military's actions in East Timor. We should learn from these mistakes and appreciate the fact that military education programs and other forms of engagement with the Indonesian military (now called the TNI) substantially benefit both our own military and our interest in promoting military reform and professionalism. They clearly are in our overall national interest.

The need for responsible US-Indonesian military-to-military engagement is even more crucial today because the TNI is already undergoing significant changes as President Wahid has transferred reform-minded generals and admirals into new positions of authority. For the first time since the 1950s, Indonesia has a civilian defense minister; that is a move we should applaud and do what we can to responsibly reinforce. Indeed, responsible U.S. assistance and engagement can help promote and shape these positive developments. Furthermore, in the past, when the U.S. was required to suspend military assistance, our Australian allies stepped into this role and cultivated close ties with the TNI. However, as a consequence of Australia's intervention in East Timor, these ties have become severely strained and will take time to repair. If we leave a gap this time, there is no one to fill it.

INDIA-PAKISTAN

Lastly, let me turn briefly to South Asia. It seems like a distant memory, but just two short years ago the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers met in Lahore. They solemnly promised to resolve all outstanding differences, including Kashmir. Since that time, however, there have been nuclear tests, the Kargil incursion, a military coup in Pakistan, and, most recently, a terrorist hijacking. Rarely has the hope of peace been dashed so decidedly.

I believe it is painfully clear to all that U.S. policy, designed to deter nuclear proliferation and punish would-be nuclear powers, almost certainly served a useful purpose, but ultimately it did not succeed. This policy may have helped deter proliferation for many years, but with the nuclear tests that time has passed. Laws that were enacted to deter proliferation now limit our ability to engage in very important ways with India and Pakistan to actually avoid nuclear confrontation. I believe, for example, that the United States now should work closely with India and Pakistan to better assure that the control of this nuclear capability in their hands is as safe as possible. We have fail-safe technology and experience with redundant command and control systems, elements of which we can share, to ensure that inadvertent or unauthorized nuclear launches do not occur. It is extremely important for India and Pakistan to have such technology. Remember, for example, that during the Kargil crisis there were widespread rumors in both India and Pakistan of imminent nuclear attack by the other side. With armies mobilizing and airplanes being lost, the risk of escalation was very real. In such a situation, emergency inter-country communications channels and secure command and control of nuclear assets are essential. However, in general, we are prohibited by law from providing this type of assistance. I have urged the Administration to act on this matter, but they insist that their hands are tied. Frankly, I find this answer doubtful, but if accurate they need to clearly and aggressively seek a statutory change.
I am pleased that the Congress has been able to legislate a waiver of the draconian sanctions that were imposed immediately after the nuclear tests. Frankly, a prohibition on commercial loans and a "no" vote in the IMF hurt American exporters and did nothing to resolve our proliferation and security concerns. I am pleased to have had a hand in lifting these sanctions together with a number of older, outmoded prohibitions (i.e., the Pressler Amendment).

Let me say that, during my five year tenure as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, I have tried very hard not to play favorites. I have sought to treat both India and Pakistan on the merits of their case or actions. I continue to believe that the United States can, and should, seek to have a positive relationship with both countries. Again, in this instance, our relations with either country are not a zero-sum game. And, again, as with East Timor, I refuse to play ethnic politics among factions in America.

On another related issue, there is currently a move by some friends of India to legislate the placement of Pakistan on the State Department Terrorist Countries List. Placing Pakistan on this list would mean that we have totally cut off Pakistan -- that we thereby, effectively, no longer seek to influence the course of events in Pakistan. I cannot believe that such a move is appropriate or in the U.S. national interest -- certainly not on the basis of the information available and verified.

The United States continues to wield considerable influence in Islamabad. We are able to encourage Pakistan's behavior in many ways. Of course, our influence is not absolute. There no doubt will be occasions when the leadership in Pakistan will not heed our warnings. But at this point it would be irresponsible to lump Pakistan together with the likes of North Korea, Sudan, Iraq, and Libya. (It is reported that the Administration may want to remove North Korea from the list.) Our policy should be to prevent Pakistan from becoming a true rogue state. If Pakistan goes the way of Afghanistan -- adopting a Taliban-style leadership -- the U.S. national interest would be severely threatened (as would India's security).

Indeed, the challenges ahead for the U.S. in Asia are many and they are complex: North Korea, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, India and Pakistan. And, these are not all of the areas of concern. Undoubtedly, there will be a similar number of economic security and competitive challenges the U.S. will confront in Asia in the coming years. However, we'll have to save such predictions and speculations for another lunch!

Five years ago, when I held my first hearing as the new Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Subcommittee, I stated in my opening remarks that we should recognize and appreciate the extraordinary and growing importance of the Asia-Pacific region to the United States and the world community. After all, the United States is also a Pacific country. Accordingly, our policies and actions should be guided by the following three overall objectives:

  1. The United States military and naval presence and security commitment to the region must be sustained and enhanced both for the purpose of regional stability and in furtherance of our foreign policy goals and national interest.

  2. The United States must better focus and augment its resources to defend our economic interests, to expand our commercial opportunities, and to ensure American competitiveness in the region.

  3. Mindful of the American commitment to our fundamental principles of democracy, pluralism, and human rights, we must creatively utilize the most effective bilateral, regional, and multilateral approaches to advance these principles in the region.

Maintaining -- indeed, strengthening -- our already close alliances with Japan, Australia and South Korea is a fundamental factor in achieving these goals. So, too, is building further upon the solid foundation of friendship and cooperation already established with Singapore, Thailand, and, eventually, again with New Zealand. I even have some optimism about new possibilities to strengthen our relationship and mutual benefits with respect to the Philippines. Certainly, this region holds enormous importance and promise for the United States. Our trade relations with Asia, our security relations with Asia, and our political linkages with the region will greatly influence the U.S. geo-strategic role in the 21st Century. We must give these relations the high level of responsible, forward-looking attention they warrant.

Thank you.

(end text)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State)

 

2. NEWS in Brief - top
 

KOREA

Civil Action for 2000 General Election report names 67 politicians

The Civil Action for 2000 General Election (CAGE) released the list of 67 politicians unqualified to stand in the coming general election in April at a press conference recently. This was the first time that the press conference of civil groups was covered live by TV in Korea. The list included many influencial politicians both from the ruling and the opposition parties. The former prime minister Kim Jong-pil, former speaker of the parliament, Kim Soo-han and Hwang Nak-joo were included in the list.

The list was the result of more than a month of investigation into the political and financial background of the 329 members of the parliament. A 100-member "voters committee", representing citizens of all walks of life and coming from the various provinces of Korea, was convened to further examine a shortlist of 95.

The public response to the release of the list could have serious impact in the Korean General Elections. According to an opinion poll conducted by MBC (a major TV/radio company) and Korea Gallup, 73.3% of the respondents replied that they would withdraw their support for politicians in the list even though they had supported them before; 68.9% of the respondents replied that the list was made with fairness.

CAGE plans to release a second list in the very near future. The first list released on the 24th was made from the present members of the parliament only. The second list woll consist of politicians who are not members of the parliament at the moment, but are very likely to stand in the coming general election.

HONG KONG

Indonesian Migrant Workers' Union officially launched

The Indonesian Migrant Workers' Union had its official launcing ceremony on 30 January 2000 at the Victoria Park, Hong Kong.

In its press statement, the union noted that there were only 670 Indonesian Domestic Migrant Workers ten years ago. Their number has now grown to 41,400 by end 1999. They are now the second largest community of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. This was an explosive growth of 6,000% between 1989 and 1999. In 1999 alone, there were 9,700 new arrivals to Hong Kong, making it the fastest growing nationality of domestic helpers in Hong Kong.

With the dramatic increase in their number, the statement also highlighted the corresponding increase in abuses and exploitation that they experience from their government, recruitment
agencies and employers. The kind of exploitation they face include: threat, physical and sexual abuse, excessive agency fee, underpayment, long working hours and many of them not given
holidays. The statement also critized the Indonesian government for turning "a blind eye and a deaf ear" to their problems. There wre times when they have even tried to silence the courageous few who tried to come out and expose employers and agencies preyed on them.

The launching of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (IMWU) may be the first ever union of Indonesian migrant workers in Asia, if not the world.

THAILAND

UN warns protesters must be heard at Bangkok trade meet

UN warns protesters must be heard at Bangkok trade meet - (AFP)

The UN's trade and development chief, Rubens Ricupero, warned on Sunday that protests must be allowed at the world body's global trade meet starting in Bangkok next weekend.

The warning comes amid a security crack-down by Thai authorities eager to prevent a repeat of violence by anti-globalisation activists which marred World Trade Organisation talks in Seattle last year and the more recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Ricupero, United Nations Conference on Trade and Developmentsecretary general, said it was vital dissenting voices be heard and that the Bangkok meeting be used to heal old wounds.

"I hope that our conference will provide them with a public space, because I think it is dangerous to confine the protests to the street level," Ricupero said.

"It is necessary to take their concerns very seriously and try to identify what the reasons are behind all those manifestations, and what we can do in international organisations to channel those feelings towards a constructive cause."

He said the UN had "full confidence" in Thailand's security arrangements for the conference to be held between February 12 and 19.

"We trust that they will do what they find is necessary," he told reporters at a press conference after arriving in Bangkok Sunday morning.

BURMA

250 Karen refugees flee fighting in Burma

More than 250 Karen refugees have fled fighting in Burma between the rebel group God's Army and government forces and entered Thailand in recent days, officials said today.

The latest group, mostly women and children, had arrived overnight Thursday, said Phayakkhaphan Phothikaew, chief of Suan Phung district in western Thailand across the border from the fighting.

They were given shelter in a temporary camp at Baw Wi, and joined 1,078 refugees already there, he said. The camp is 2 miles from the border, and has been off-limits to journalists.

"All of them are civilians affected by the fighting,'' said Phayakkhaphan, adding that he had no word about the estimated 100 to 200 God's Army fighters.

Government troops overran the God's Army jungle base at Ka Mar Pa Law on Jan. 27.
(Source - AP)

 

3. Urgent APPEAL - top
 

PHILIPPINES: ACTION ALERT FOR LAND STRUGGLE

Subject:Philippines - 800 peasant families threatened with violent eviction from farmlands inside state-owned school of the Central Mindanao University

Background:
MUSUAN is a town in Bukidnon province in the Southern Philippines, an agriculturally very productive region with samll farms as well as plantations that are producing grains, sugar cane, pineapples and lately, exotic cash crops for export. Big landlord families own most of the farmlands in Bukidnon while the landless peasants suffer in poverty. Landlessness is made worse by the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and other policies that benefit landlords and foreign corporations. The government also owns 3,080 hectares of lands through the Central Mindanao University (CMU) in Musuan town for agricultural research. This government-owned school is far from a model for social justice and acts much like the landlords in violating the human rights of the people to feed themselves, to produce food and to food sovereignty.

Before this, the CMU worked harmoniously with the natives and settlers. In the early 1970s, it hired a few agricultural workers to till the idle lands as part of the government’s efforts to make its corporations earn some of their revenues. Many more farmworkers arrived to till rice for private firms which temporarily lease land from the CMU. They settled peacefully and raised their families in the school grounds.

When the biggest firm, Philippine Packing Corp., was about to close in 1984, the CMU initiated an agribusiness project to combine agricultural research, training of the university students and income generation for the farmworkers. In 1986, the project was restarted as the Income Enhancement Program to exploit the idle lands of the school.

When Dr. Leonardo Chua became the school’s president in 1987, he turned away from the peaceful coexistence of farmworkers with the academic community of students, teachers, off-farm staff and managers, and started efforts to remove the farmers. Chua began branding the settled farmworkers as "squatters". In fact he only wanted to bring in other farmworkers willing to till the farms without settling and asking the school for just benefits.

This provoked the farmworkers to organize themselves into the Bukidnon Free Farmers and Agricultural Labors Organization (BUFFALO) to protect their security of tenure. BUFFALO applied with the government’s Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for the land rights of 1,200 hectares of the school grounds. In 1991, the DAR issued to BUFFALO certificates of land ownership (CLOAS) for 400 hectares, while two other farmer groups, Tamaraw and Limus, got 200 hectares each.

The CMU under Chua consequently contested the land transfer in court. In October 1992, the government, through the Supreme Court, used CARP to exempt itself from the constitutional safeguards for landless farmers.

The farmworkers opposed the ruling with militant protests but were dealt with cruelly by the school management. In 1994, Chua caused private security guards to demolish the houses of the farmworkers and two peasant leaders were shot dead.

Chua was succeeded by Dr. Jaime Gellor, and in July 1998, by Dr. Mardonio Lao who is also determined to remove the farmworker-farmers. Since his first day as chief, he began to press all kinds of legal and illegal tricks to terrorize the three groups of farmworker-farmers.

In sum, Lao is blackmailing the farmers to sign an agreement for a 'civil law lease' which allows him to order farmers to vacate the land anytime, keep them out and rent out the lands to agribusiness firms. Together with the governor of Bukidnon, he is using the 1992 Supreme Court ruling to justify the forcible eviction of the farmers by private security guards, the military and goons (even if the ruling merely declares exemption from land reform and did not say anything about eviction). The three farmer groups, led by BUFFALO, believe that only a leasehold agreement and a sound development plan would be fair for all parties. The leasehold proposes that farmers till the CMU lands, remit a fixed portion of the harvest to the campus and provide indigenous training for the agriculture students. Lao, however, rejects any settlement and pushes for a monopoly of power, as he convinced the school board and already violated an earlier agreement with the three farmer groups to negotiate for a leasehold.

President Estrada, who was elected in 1998 because of his promise to improve the lives of the poor, is favoring the reconcentration of lands and wealth into the hands of the big landlords, compradors and multinational firms. The regime committed itself to the prescriptions of the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organization to privatizate, liberalize and deregulate all sectors of the economy, including education. Last year, the Commission on Higher Education directed all state-owned schools such as CMU to raise their own funds from joint ventures with big business,
while this year the government budget for education was cut in favor of the armed forces and foreign debt payments.

Therefore, CMU’s effort to remove the farmers is in line with the government’s thrusts. It is part of the plan of all public agricultural training institutes (ATIs) to abandon assistance to small farmers and put themselves at the service of agrocorporations who will use the lands, talents and government research funds of ATIs for their own profit. Alarmingly, these government institutions are geared to further promote unsustainable corporate farming practices that will worsen landlessness in the country.

Why the Action Alert?:
The three farmer groups have no hope in the Estrada government to act favorably for a just settlement. There is no other way but to actively defend their rights because if they would be evicted, the farmers have nowhere to go and might be forced to migrate to the cities where they would have to live in misery.

Most farmlands in Mindanao are monopolized by the ruling families and even the government admits it cannot find a place to relocate the farmers. Yet CMU’s administration is ready to repeat the bloody eviction of 1994 and only a determined people will prevent the ruling elite from defeating
the cause of the tillers.

BUFFALO, Tamaraw, Limus and the national movement of landless peasants and farmworkers Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) are working to prevent this meaningless loss of lives and livelihood, and ask for support to make sure the Bukidnon farmers continue to be able to feed themselves and the nation as well.

Recommended Action:
Please write polite letters to the Commissioner of Higher Education asking her to take the CMU to task in assuring the farmers’ rights to lead productive lives in the farmlands of the school.

Please ask the Commissioner to prevent Dr. Lao from evicting the farmers and to order the CMU administration to allow them to lease the disputed lands in exchange for a fair share from their farm produce and to cooperate with the farmers to draw up a democratic school development plan.

Please also mail a copy to Dr. Mardonio Lao of CMU. We encourage you to write your own letters. Of course, you can also use or modify the sample letter given below.

Hon. Ester Garcia
Chairperson
Commission on Higher Education
Development Academy of the Philippines Bldg.
Pasig City,Philippines

Copy:

Dr. Mardonio Lao
President
Central Mindanao University
University Town
Musuan, Bukidnon
Philippines

If you can still write to the following people, please do so because they can urge the administrators to sit down in a fair negotiation with the farmer groups. Letters by post and fax are preferred but you may send e-mail instead to save on postage and fax charges.

Rep. Abdullah S. Mangotara
Chairperson
Committee on Agrarian Reform
Congress of the Philippines
House of Representatives
Batasan Hills, Quezon City,
Philippines
Fax (632) 931-6888

Rep. Dante Liban
Chairperson
House Committee on Higher Education
House of Representatives
Quezon City, Philippines
Fax (632) 9514333

Senator Teresita Aquino Oreta
Chairperson
Senate Committee on Higher and Technical Education
Congress of the Philippines, Senate
Room 516 GSIS Bldg., Financial Center, Roxas Boulevard
Pasay City, Philippines
Email: legis@i-manila.com.ph

Please inform KMP about any response to your letters by sending an email to kmp@quickweb.com.ph. Visit the KMP website at http://www.geocities.com/kmp_ph/   for more details and updates.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Hon.Ester Garcia
Chairperson
Commissionon Higher Education
DAP Building
Pasig City
Dear Madam,

I would like to relay to you my concerns about the eviction threat against some 800 farming families from 400 hectares of the Central Mindanao University premises. I believe that as a farming school, the CMU ought to forge a partnership with the farmers because they devoted their lives to make the university a real training school for food security of the people.

I am alarmed that Dr. Lao, the school’s president, is using undemocratic methods in forcing out the farmers and suppressing the opposition among the students, faculty and staff of CMU. Lao is reportedly sending private guards to harass the farmers and scare the students who might sympathize with them. Dr. Lao derisively calls the farmers "squatters" while he would prefer big corporations to profit from the land’s productivity.

I am aware that the Supreme Court has ruled that the CMU lands are in the custody of the state and cannot be alienated and disposed. Therefore, I believe that the lands should be used in the interest of the majority of Filipinos, the peasants. You will certainly agree with me that laws should serve the people and should not be tools that add to poverty, suffering and conflict.

I simply ask that the farmers be given the fullest sense of justice and fairness, because they have already respected the ruling and they deserve the guarantee of equitable sharing of the nation’s wealth.Therefore, I support the request of the BUFFALO, Tamaraw and Limus groups of farmers to be given first priority in leasing the CMU farmlands. I ask for the withdrawal of all armed guards from the farmers’ lands and for a just and fair settlement of the conflict in the interest of the farmers. Please instruct CMU’s administration to take immediate and appropriate action.

I would greatly appreciate you keeping me informed about any future developments in this case.

Yours sincerely,

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