Week of August 13, 1999
Week of August 13, 1999
DEFENSE: Senate report Criticizes Chinese Espionage Inquiry
On August 5th a bipartisan Senate committee chaired by Fred Thompson (R-TN),
released a 32-page report that was highly critical of the Energy and Justice
Departments? and the FBI’s handling of a four-year investigation into alleged
nuclear espionage at the nation’s nuclear laboratories. At issue are the handling
of an FBI request for a search warrant for the computer of a Los Alamos nuclear
scientist at the center of this investigation and the rapid focus of the investigation
on that scientist, Taiwan-born Wen Ho Lee. The report explained that the Los
Alamos counter-intelligence officer failed to provide the FBI with the waiver
that Mr. Lee had signed allowing partial monitoring of his computer activities,
which would have made the FBI’s request to the Department of Justice for a
search warrant a moot point. Despite this, Attorney-General Janet Reno stands
by her agency’s determination that the FBI did not provide sufficient evidence
to meet the test of probable cause that would allow the department to issue
the search warrant.
On the charge that Lee committed espionage, the report contains evidence
that both supports and erodes the claim. It contains evidence that the information
China obtained in the mid-1990s on sensitive U.S. nuclear weapons has been
available at other military and government sites since 1983. For that reason,
the agencies involved may have overlooked other potential spies who might
still be working in the U.S. government. Given a lack of direct evidence against
Lee on the charge of espionage, prosecution against him may proceed only on
the less serious charge of violating lab security procedures by allegedly
transferring classified nuclear data into a non-classified computer system.
The Senators who released the report have indicated that they hope the agencies
involved will hold the appropriate officials responsible.
The House and Senate also reached agreement on August 6 on legislation to
re-organize the nuclear weapons programs under the Department of Energy as
a new agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration. The new structure,
which will have a degree of autonomy, won Congressional approval as a means
of streamlining communication from the secretary down through the bureaucratic
levels. The Clinton Administration, however, has voiced its opposition to
the legislation because it curtails the secretary’s authority. Because the
legislation was placed within the Energy department’s appropriation legislation,
a veto is unlikely.
Previous Summary || Next Summary
BUSINESS/TAIWAN: China Airlines Buys Planes from Boeing and Airbus
Resolving a controversy over an agreement between China Airlines of Taiwan
and Boeing, the carrier has announced that it will purchase a number of cargo
jets from Boeing and passenger planes from its European rival, Airbus. The
13 747-400 cargo jets and 7 A340-300 passenger planes represent the largest
order in Taiwan’s history and is a sign of marked economic improvement. The
purchase of planes from Airbus has been characterized as a deliberate decision
by the 71% state-owned China Airlines to note its disappointment with U.S.
policy in the wake of President Lee Teng-hui’s enunciation of "special state-to-state"
relations with Beijing in early July. The current deal, however, is designed
to please all three companies involved and their respective governments.
Previous Summary || Next Summary
FREEDOM OF RELIGION: China Bars Hong Kong Visit of Pope
On August 9th the Chinese government in Beijing announced that due to diplomatic
ties between the Vatican and Taiwan, Pope John Paul II would be barred from
visiting Hong Kong during his Asian tour later this year. A statement issued
in the name of government spokesman Stephen Lam said that "it would only be
appropriate to discuss the proposed visit after the Central People’s Government
(in Beijing) and the Vatican have resolved the relevant issues." This statement
comes at a time when cross strait relations are particularly strained. Hong
Kong SAR government officials have stated that the ban on the Pope is strictly
a foreign policy issue. Any relations with the Pope, recognized at the Vatican
head of state, technically fall under this category, over which Beijing has
Pope John Paul II has maintained an unofficial envoy in Hong Kong since the
handover despite the lack of relations between the Vatican and Beijing. Monsignor
Frederick Filoni is an unofficial diplomat technically described as stationed
at the Vatican Embassy in Manila. This role stems from the posting to Hong
Kong in 1989 of Monsignor Jean Paul Gobel as "the first secretary in China
affairs of the papal nunciature in Manila."
The Vatican embarked on a diplomatic campaign to secure a Hong Kong visit
for the Pope, only to be rejected by Beijing. According to Dr. Beatrice Leung
Kit-fun, a Catholic nun and an expert on Sino-Vatican relations, whenever
the pontiff met with overseas Chinese at the Holy See in Rome, he expressed
a desire to visit the mainland. In May of last year several Asian bishops
meeting in the Vatican recommended that the Pope consider visiting Hong Kong.
This set in motion a series of discussions and even a controversial appeal
from Cardinal of State Angelo Sodano, the Pope’s senior diplomat, for Beijing
to allow an apostolic nunciature, or embassy, to be opened there. Speaking
at a reception in February, Cardinal Sodano stated that the Vatican was prepared
to shift its diplomatic mission from Taipei to Beijing.
This statement was a major shift in the Vatican’s foreign policy, although
Cardinal Sodano assured that it would not mean breaking relations with Taiwan.
However, China has not carried out diplomatic relations with any state concurrently
maintaining official diplomatic relations with Taipei. These offers have been
rejected by Beijing, although the Vatican has expressed a desire to improve
relations with the mainland.
An even greater obstacle to the relationship may be concern among Chinese
leaders about the potential moral authority of the Pope over the 10 million
Catholics in China. According to Dr. Leung, an associate professor of political
science at Lingnan College, the Chinese Communist Party fears "religion will
replace the party in the hearts of the people." China is officially atheist
and bans Christian worship outside the "patriotic churches" set up under communist
party control. Many Chinese leaders are also very aware of the role the Catholic
Church played in the downfall of Communist rule in Poland in 1989. After the
recent crackdown on Falun Gong, a Buddhist-based spiritual movement that has
gained millions of followers throughout China, these fears have been sharpened.
Pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong said Beijing’s refusal was a break
from Britain’s pre-handover policies and set further limits to Hong Kong’s
autonomy under Chinese rule. Beijing has been hesitant to exercise control
over foreign and defense issues until this year when it banned U.S. warships
and military aircraft from Hong Kong after NATO bombs accidentally hit the
Chinese embassy in Belgrade on May 7.
The U.S. and China This Week