Skip to comments.China's checkbook diplomacy wins Dominica
Posted on 04/19/2004 7:13:40 AM PDT by Dr. Marten
The Washington Times
Published in Washington, D.C. 5am -- August 12, 1999 www.washtimes.com
China company grabs power over Panama Canal
By Rowan Scarborough
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott recently wrote to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen that a Chinese shipping company is gaining broad authority over the Panama Canal and could deny passage to U.S. ships.
"It appears that we have given away the farm without a shot being fired," the Mississippi Republican said in the Aug. 1 letter requesting Mr. Cohen's security assessment.
It was the first time a congressional leader has raised questions about growing Chinese influence over one of the world's most strategic waterways. Until now, warnings were being raised primarily by a handful of conservative lawmakers, led by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, who plans a fact-finding trip to Panama on Monday.
The focus of concern is Hutchinson Whampoa Ltd., a giant Hong Kong-based shipping firm with ties to China's leadership and its armed forces, the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
Under circumstances the U.S. Embassy in Panama called unusual, the government in 1997 awarded Hutchinson a 25- to 50-year contract to run the two major ports on the canal's Atlantic and Pacific entrances.
Moreover, conservatives assert that Panama gave Hutchinson broader powers in legislation known as "Law No. 5."
Al Santoli, an aide to Mr. Rohrabacher, said the law enables Hutchinson to assign the pilots who take control of ships and steer them through the canal. He also said the Chinese company can block passage of ships to meet its business needs.
This contention was challenged by a spokesman for the Panama Canal Commission, a panel of five Americans and four Panamanians who run the waterway. The Panama Canal Commission spokesman said the treaty gives the United States the right to intervene militarily to protect access.
Mr. Lott wrote to Mr. Cohen, "This administration is allowing a scenario to develop where U.S. national security interests could not be protected without confronting the Chinese communists in the Americas. U.S. naval ships will be at the mercy of Chinese-controlled pilots and could even be denied passage through the Panama Canal by Hutchinson, an arm of the People's Liberation Army.
"In addition, the Chinese Communist Party will gain an intelligence information advantage by controlling this strategic chokepoint. It appears that we have given away the farm without a shot being fired."
The senator sent the letter based on an article in Insight magazine, a sister publication of The Washington Times, that detailed Hutchinson's ties to the PLA. The Times first reported in 1997 that Hutchinson had gained control of the port of Balboa on the Pacific and Cristobal on the Atlantic.
The United States is the No. 1 user of the canal that carries 13,000 ships per year.
The U.S. military is abandoning bases in Panama under a 1977 treaty, signed by President Carter, that gives canal ownership to Panama, effective Dec. 31.
Mr. Santoli said the canal is part of a Chinese strategy to move into countries abandoned by the United States and the former Soviet Union. In Cuba, for example, Chinese intelligence officials are helping Cuba build a communications facility, he said.
"They're using Panama as a staging area for the region," Mr. Santoli said. "They're doing a massive amount of construction, a lot of investment. Literally hundreds of mainland Chinese are moving into Panama at all levels."
The Miami Herald on Monday quoted Panama's ousted intelligence chief as accusing his country's president, Ernesto Perez Balladares, of personally demanding visas for 140 Chinese immigrants.
The newspaper said the U.S. Justice Department is investigating a scheme in which Chinese immigrants paid $15,000 each for visas to use Panama as a staging area for illegal entry into the United States.
The Panama debate comes amid broader questions about China's strategic intentions and criticism of President Clinton's pro-Beijing policies from both Democrats and Republicans.
Military experts say a pattern of Chinese actions reveals a long-range strategic plan to dominate Asia and exert influence worldwide. The moves include its forays in Panama, its failed attempt to take over the old Long Beach, Calif., naval base, its suspected spying at U.S. nuclear labs, its illegal injection of campaign cash into Democratic Party coffers and its increased military spending, especially on nuclear weapons.
Reporting on a trip he and outside experts made to Panama in June, Mr. Santoli wrote in a report, "The delegation was concerned about the growing presence of communist China directly at the canal and in the region. Panama has become the central base of operations for communist China in Latin America."
Mr. Santoli said a Hutchinson subsidiary in Panama, Panama Ports Co., is partly owned by China Resources Enterprise, the commercial arm of the Chinese Ministry of Trade.
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee has identified the Ministry of Trade as a conduit for "espionage -- economic, political and military -- for China."
Mr. Santoli said Li Kashing, chairman of Hutchinson, has served as a middleman for PLA dealings with the West, including satellite purchases from Hughes Corp.
Some downplay potential problems with Hutchinson's role in canal operations. For example, a former staffer to Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, issued a report in 1997 dismissing the company as a security threat.
Copyright © 1999 News World Communications, Inc.
- Rep. Rohrabacher: United States-China Military Exchanges
Source: Washington Weekly
Published: Monday, October 4, 1999 Author: Rep. Rohrabacher, House of Representatives, Sep. 29, 1999
Posted on 10/03/1999 09:38:26 PDT by JeanS
United States-China Military Exchanges
Rep. Rohrabacher, House of Representatives, Sep. 29, 1999
Mr. Speaker, 2 days ago, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, told reporters that he hopes the U.S. military will resume contacts with the Communist Chinese military. At the very same time that Secretary Cohen was speaking, in Shanghai, Chinese dictator Jiang Zemin was speaking to a gathering of elite U.S. corporate chairmen who were in China to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the communist takeover of the mainland of China .
Jiang Zemin blatantly renewed threats by the communist regime to conquer Taiwan by force, and then he threatened the United States. 'We will not allow any foreign force to create or support Taiwanese independence.'
I have in my possession, Mr. Chairman, Pentagon documents detailing the Clinton Administration's exchange program between the United States and Communist China. It is a military exchange program. This program of military exchanges has, in effect, assisted the Communist Chinese Air Force in improving its capabilities to conduct bombing raids on Taiwan.
The May 1999 Air Force exchange, and this was an exchange in May of 1999, this year, introduced the Communist Chinese , and these are military leaders in the Communist Chinese military, to our most advanced Air Force capabilities. This may eventually cause the death of Americans serving in any U.S. air or naval forces that would attempt to defend Taiwan against communist attack.
This is mind boggling. I pray that those people who are listening to this or reading it in the Congressional Record or my colleagues will please pay attention. We are talking about training Communist Chinese military people in ways that will result in the death of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of American military personnel. It is outrageous. It is incredible. What can you say? What can we do to draw attention to this absolute outrage?
The Chinese Communist People's Liberation Air Force and government air traffic control delegation visited the United States between May 9 and May 20 of this year. Air traffic control certainly sounds harmless. The Pentagon documents used to brief these Chinese visitors show that they observed or participated in advanced combat Air Force exercises with the U.S. 389th Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. They also observed fighter bomber operations at Edwards Air Force Base test center in California.
At these exercises, they experienced the real or simulated flights of bombing runs and strafing runs by our most sophisticated military aircraft. Especially useful for the Communist Chinese in their potential attack by the Communist Chinese on Taiwan was the briefing they got, and these DOD documents verify this, that they were shown how the military can use civilian airfields to conduct military operations.
What we see by these DOD documents is that our government, our Defense Department, showed the Communist Chinese how we would use our radar systems for air traffic control of fighter bombers at remote airfields.
We showed the Communists how to use AWACs in coordinating bombing campaigns. We showed the Communists how we coordinate our AWACS with in-flight refueling for long-range missions.
Mr. Speaker, earlier in this session, when I discovered this military exchange program and made it public, the Congress appealed to the Defense Department and passed legislation to end military exchanges that would benefit the warfighting skills of the Chinese military.
These DOD documents prove that the Pentagon has ignored the will of Congress. Instead, they have not only jeopardized the 24 million people who live on Democratic Taiwan but this administration is in effect teaching the Communist Chinese how to improve their ability to kill America's defenders.
Again, this is bizarre. It is almost surrealistic. I beg my colleagues to pay attention to this. I beg the administration to come to their senses, quit trying to treat the world's worst human rights abuser, a regime that constantly reminds us that they do not believe in anything that America believes in, hates everything America stands for. I beg them to quit trying to call these people our strategic partners and training them how to do their military.
I stand ready to give my colleagues all of these documents upon request.
Newsmax.com, January 19, 2000
by Christopher Ruddy and Stephan Archer
Bahamas --- The same Chinese company that recently took operational control of the Panama Canal is currently completing construction of the largest container port in the world in Freeport, Bahamas --- just 60 miles from Florida. View Photos of the Port
Several U.S. military experts say that the activities of Hutchison Whampoa Limited, a Hong Kong-based conglomerate, in both Panama and the Bahamas, pose a significant risk to U.S. national security.
Officials for Hutchison Whampoa have heatedly denied any links with the Red Chinese government, but several established connections --- including new evidence uncovered by NewsMax.com --- suggest the Chinese government has a keen interest in the company's activities.
One port facility that has captured the interest of the Chinese government is Hutchison Whampoa's sprawling port facility in the tourist destination of Freeport on Grand Bahama Island.
Strategically Located Near U.S. East Coast
According to the company's Web site, the port is located at one of the most strategic spots in the world because "Freeport is the closest offshore port to the east coast of the United States, at the cross-roads of routes between Europe and the Americas and through the Panama Canal."
In 1995, Hutchison Whampoa entered into a 50-50 partnership with the Grand Bahama Development Company, a privately owned Bahamian company, to develop and expand the small Freeport facility that had catered to cruise ships.
Since then, Hutchison has helped dredge and expand the port, making it capable of handling the largest container ships on the high seas.
According to Michael Powers, Hutchison Whampoa's General Manager for the Freeport development, the container port is simply a "dedicated deep water trans-shipment hub."
'Hub' Port for Container Shipping
Large container ships coming from several directions can off-load their container boxes, which can be re-routed on to other large or small container ships for delivery. The port operates, he says, much like Miami airport might serve as a "hub" for travelers going to destinations around the globe.
Already the port is doing a brisk business in container shipments, Powers said, and has the capacity to become the world's largest container port. He said the company also plans to make the port the world's largest cruise ship destination port. Already, Disney cruise lines will soon make Freeport a port of call.
The company has ambitious plans to create the largest air cargo facility on land adjacent to the port. Hutchison has a 50 percent stake in the Grand Bahama Airport Company, which owns one of the largest airport runways in the world --- more than 11,000 feet long. According to Powers, the runway is capable of handling the world's largest cargo and military aircraft.
On 800 acres of wooded land adjacent to the airport, Hutchison plans to create the Grand Bahama Sea-Air Business Center --- a center that could potentially allow for 8 million square feet in warehouse space.
Communist China Ties Disturbing
While Hutchison Whampoa has a sterling reputation as a commercial enterprise --- and has not been linked to any illegal activities such as drug or gun smuggling --- the firm's ties to Communist China have raised concerns.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and former U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger have expressed concerns about Hutchison's influence over the Panama Canal.
Lott has described the Hong Kong firm as "an arm of the People's Liberation Army."
Hutchison Whampoa's chairman, Li Ka-Shing, is also a board member of CITIC --- the China International Trust and Investment Corporation. U.S. intelligence sources have described the firm as a front for China's governmental State Council.
Congressman Dana Rohrbacher, R-Calif., has stated that CITIC has been used as a front company by China's military to acquire technology for weapons development.
Closely Tied to Beijing Rulers
A recently declassified report by the United States Southern Command's Joint Intelligence Center, prepared in October 1999 and obtained by the government watchdog Judicial Watch, said that "Hutchison Whampoa's owner, Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-Shing, has extensive business ties in Beijing and has compelling financial reasons to maintain a good relationship with China's leadership."
The military intelligence report also warns that "Hutchison containerized shipping facilities in the Panama Canal, as well as the Bahamas, could provide a conduit for illegal shipments of technology or prohibited items from the West to the PRC, or facilitate the movement of arms and other prohibited items into the Americas." View the Actual Secret U.S. Military Report
John Meredith, the group-managing director for Hutchison Port Holdings, told NewsMax.com that comments made about Hutchison have often been erroneous and "outrageous."
He said the firm's involvement at the port in the Bahamas is simply a trans-shipment service.
Just Cranes, That's All
"We have no pilots. We have no tugs. We have no boats. We have no ships. We have no containers. All we have is cranes," he said.
Meredith angrily denied any connection between the firm and the Chinese government.
"We're a public company in Hong Kong. We're not an arm of anybody," said Meredith. He pointed out that less than 1 percent of all Hutchison investors are Chinese.
"I'm British for starters. I don't even speak the language. It would be very difficult for someone to instruct me as to what to do," he said
"We've had the most outrageous comments made about what we've got down [in Panama] --- missile silos and all sorts of rubbish. Anybody can come and investigate," added Meredith.
No Chinese on Payroll
According to Powers, Hutchison employs about 500 Bahamians. Only five managers are not Bahamians, mostly British nationals. None are Chinese. Bahamian officials told NewsMax.com they have noticed no increase in Chinese nationals at the port or on the island.
Despite the strong claims made by Hutchison that China has no interest in their Bahamian port, evidence suggests otherwise.
A review of the visitor's log by NewsMax.com at the company's main office in Freeport shows that Chinese government officials have been frequent visitors to the port facility.
According to the log, China's ambassador to the Bahamas, MA Shuxue, has visited the port facility at least a half dozen times in the past few years. He has also accompanied groups of Chinese government officials. On other occasions Chinese governmental or commercial representatives have also paid visits without the presence of Ambassador Shuxue.
Chinese Hold Frequent-Visitor Record
The visitor logbook indicates Chinese officials have visited the port more often than officials from any other country, including the United States. View Photos of Entries by Chinese Officials in the Visitor Log
The logbook also shows that on June 2, 1999, the Cuban ambassador, Lazaro Cabeza, also paid a visit to the facility. Cuba is a strong ally of China's.
"If they have no connection to Hutchison and the port, if they are not interested in this company, why is China sending its ambassador there?" asks retired Admiral Thomas Moorer. "Why are other Chinese officials showing up there? Why is Castro's ambassador going there?"
Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also served as former commander in chief of the Pacific and Atlantic Fleets.
"Of course the Chinese military sees the benefit of having a base, a future base, so close to the United States," Moorer said, adding, "What China is trying to do is get a kind of maritime position worldwide, and they need a home base --- so to speak --- in every ocean."
They Even Wanted Long Beach
"Not only are the Chinese in the Bahamas, they're in Panama and the Spratly Islands right off the Philippines. They tried to get Long Beach," Moorer said.
"There's no question about the fact in my mind that the Chinese military forces are affiliated with Mr. Li, who in turn runs Hutchison Whampoa," added Moorer.
Moorer said while the port facilities appear harmless today, they could be used as a staging ground by the Chinese at some future point if hostilities were to arise in the Korean peninsula or over Taiwan.
The Bahamian government said they are pleased with Hutchison's activities, however.
Bahamians All in Favor
Lindy Russell, the parliamentary secretary in the office of the prime minister for the Bahamas, said that Bahamians are excited about the economic development the port brings to the island nation.
Besides development of the port, Hutchison has other investments on the island including a 370-acre resort in Lucaya, Grand Bahama, which includes a 49-acre beachfront site.
Russell said that U.S. officials have expressed concerns to him regarding human cargo of Chinese labor possibly coming through the ports. They had no concerns about the actual operation of the port, Russell said.
The one that's got the gold, rules.
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