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Jewish World Review / June 23, 1998 / 29 Sivan, 5758

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas William Perry opposed
technology transfers to China

AS PRESIDENT CLINTON DEPARTS for China, no one should wish him ill because he carries the prestige and interests of the United States with him. Yet he leaves behind the matter of missile-technology transfers to Beijing and the question of whether they have damaged American security interests as part of a trade-out with contributors to his 1996 reelection bid.

Former Defense Secretary William Perry has responded to a number of questions I asked concerning his knowledge of the technology
transfers and whether he felt pressured to approve them.

When he was Under Secretary of Defense in the Carter Administration, Perry says he considered the transfer of U.S. military technology to China in order to provide additional military balance with the Soviet Union, a position consistent with the ``China card'' strategy of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. After visiting some of China's technical facilities, Perry says he recommended against the transfers because, among other things, he believed they would be useless to both sides.

"By the time I became secretary (of defense in 1994)," he says, "the situation was entirely different because of developments both in Russia and China. We no longer had any reason to seek an offset to the Soviet Union's military power, and, in the meantime, China had grown militarily and more distant politically. So I did not, and do not, favor making any transfers of military technology to them."

Perry says he does believe in "engaging" the Chinese, and after his 1994 visit he established a Defense Conversion Commission whose goal was converting military plants to produce commercial goods instead of military hardware. A similar commission had been established with the Russians, and he believed it could produce the same positive results with China.

Perry later concluded that the Defense Conversion Commission was "a waste of time" with China. The Chinese military already was producing a number of commercial products, and the Chinese interest in the commission was primarily the transfer of military technology, "which I did not believe was in our security interest." Perry says he told his staff in 1995 to terminate the commission. During its brief life, he says, the only project the commission ever undertook was to help the Chinese establish a safer air traffic control system, which was ultimately turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Perry says he supports allowing U.S. companies to sell commercial products to any country not under sanctions, even though some may be converted for military applications, especially if these products are freely available from other countries. Some American products, he says, can be effectively restricted. But he thinks that to ban technology available elsewhere not only hurts U.S. companies but does nothing to advance our nonproliferation goals.

Asked if he ever felt pressured by the White House or anyone else regarding technology transfers to the Chinese, Perry says he did not and, furthermore, is "not aware of such pressure being applied to others." Regarding the recent nuclear tests in India and Pakistan, Perry says, "It is a calamity which we unsuccessfully tried to prevent." While he says he can't be sure that China had no role in the nuclear programs of India and Pakistan, he doesn't believe that it was a "critical role" and that both countries have "very capable engineers and scientists who have been working to develop nuclear weapons for many years."

An April 1996 article in the conservative American Spectator accused Perry of encouraging technology exports that helped fuel China's modernization of its military plants. "I have never been so angry" about an article, he said. "It was riddled with gross errors of fact, not to mention statements that were egregiously defamatory."

Clearly there is more to be learned about the relationship among American companies, the Clinton-Gore reelection effort and the Chinese government and its military. It is clear that William Perry now joins a growing list of former and current Cabinet-level advisors who opposed missile-technology transfers to China. Not heeding the advice was their boss, Bill Clinton.

6/19/98: The Clinton hare vs.the Starr tortoise
6/17/98: The President's rocky road to China
6/15/98: Let the children go
6/9/98: Oregon: the new killing fields
6/5/98: Speaking plainly: the cover-up continues
6/2/98: Barry Goldwater: in our hearts
5/28/98:The Speaker's insightful remarks
5/26/98: As bad as it gets
5/25/98:Union dues and don'ts
5/21/98: Connecting those Chinese campaign contribution dots
5/19/98: Clinton on the couch
5/13/98: John Ashcroft: another Jimmy Carter?
5/8/98: Terms of dismemberment
5/5/98: Clinton's tangled Webb
4/30/98: Return of the Jedi
4/28/98: Desparately seeking Susan
4/23/98: RICO's threat to free-speech and expression
4/21/98: Educating children v. preserving an institution
4/19/98: Analyzing the birth of a possible new nation
4/14/98: What's fair about our tax system?
4/10/98: CBS: 'Touched by a perv'
4/8/98: Judge Wright's wrong reasoning on sexual harassment
4/2/98: How about helping American cities before African?
3/31/98:Revenge of the children
3/29/98: The Clinton strategy: delay, deceive, deny, and destroy
3/26/98: Moralist Gary Hart
3/23/98: CNN's century of (liberal) women
3/17/98: Dandy Dan
3/15/98: An imposed 'settlement' settles nothing
3/13/98: David Brock's Turnabout

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Inc.