Dole Supports China Trade Renewal, Blasts Rest of Clinton Foreign Policy
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sen. Bob Dole issued a broad election-year indictment of President Clinton’s foreign policy on Thursday, accusing his rival of ``weakness, indecision, doubletalk and incoherence.″
The Republican presidential candidate did agree with Clinton on giving China another year of ``most favored nation″ trade privileges. But he said Clinton’s wobbly leadership made it a ``tough sell″ in Congress.
Dole also proposed a break-off in talks with North Korea and a new agreement with Asian allies on ballistic missile defenses.
``As a direct result of the weak leadership, vacillation and inconsistency which are the hallmarks of Clinton administration foreign policy, the world’s sole superpower finds itself drifting and defensive, with an uncertain course and an untrusted voice in the Pacific Basin,″ the Senate majority leader said.
In a speech that took months to prepare and nearly an hour to deliver, Dole used scathing language to try to contrast Clinton’s foreign policy views with his own _ differences that are not always clearcut.
He accused the president of ``coddling″ North Korea, slighting South Korea, lacking a clear policy toward China, ``amateurish posturing″ in trade disputes with Japan, ambiguity toward Taiwan and an overeliance on former President Jimmy Carter to get him out of foreign-policy binds.
``President Clinton’s foreign policy track record of weakness, indecision, doubletalk and incoherence has diminished American credibility and undermined American interests,″ Dole asserted.
``Our differences are vast and fundamental.″
Vice President Al Gore called Dole’s speech a collection of campaign-year ``fluff and dust″ and said his central assertion that the administration had mismanaged Asia policy was ``manifestly wrong.″
But Gore told a group of reporters that the administration was pleased Dole had decided to reject advice of many influential conservative voices in his party and support extending trade benefits to China.
Of Dole’s call for a missile defense system for Asia, including possibly stationing missiles on Taiwan, Gore said: ``We have already deployed advanced missile defense systems to the region. And we are developing even more advanced systems that could be deployed if needed.″
Much of Dole’s speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan foreign-policy think tank, was a defense of his decision to support renewal of preferential trade treatment for China despite human rights abuses.
A decision to deny the trade benefits ``would not free a single dissident, halt a single missile sale, prevent a single threat to Taiwan or save a single innocent Chinese life,″ Dole said.
``China is not Haiti and cannot be bullied by an American president.″
Most-favored-nation status allows a country to take advantage of the lowest-possible tariffs that the United States routinely extends to its major trading partners. Clinton must decide whether to extend the trade benefits to China for another year by June 3. Congress then has a chance to overturn his decision.
Dole has voted to renew MFN for China before without conditions. Clinton, as a presidential candidate, criticized President Bush for such a course, but as president has acted to renew the trade benefits.
Many GOP leaders, including Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had urged Dole to stiffen his stand against China and put some distance between himself and Clinton.
Dole has also come under continued criticism from vanquished GOP rival Pat Buchanan, who wants to deny trade privileges to China.
But Dole said, ``We should extend MFN to China, not because it is in our economic interest but because it is in our national interest. To deny MFN for China would set back our relations for more than two decades and send a disastrous signal of American withdrawal to our strategic allies throughout the Pacific Rim.″
Dole accused Clinton of nurturing the communist regime of North Korea by showering it ``with aid, bilateral diplomacy and technology.″ He called for ending all nuclear non-proliferation talks with North Korea until Pyongyang begins peace talks directly with Seoul. ``Discussing non-proliferation with North Korea is like discussing religious tolerance with the Hezbollah,″ he said.
Dole also proposed a ``Pacific Democracy Defense Program″ in which the United States and its Asian allies would work together to develop a ballistic-missile defense network ``from the Aleutians to Australia.″
Japan and South Korea are threatened from current North Korean missiles and ones under development ``could strike North America, Russia and the capitals of Europe and the Pacific Rim,″ he said.
Furthermore, Dole also suggested that advanced defensive weapons, including ground-to-air missiles, be provided to Taiwan under the program and to ``show seriousness about defending ourselves and our allies.″
``We have recently reached agreement with Taiwan″ that will provide them with missiles in 1998, Gore said. ``I don’t think that Sen. Dole was necessarily aware of what has been going on in this area.″