WASHINGTON — It’s Day 6 of the Chinese Hostage Crisis
and President Bush is still demanding that Beijing
release our 24 airmen. He has set no clear deadline.
And the “or else” part of “do it now” seems to be lost
somewhere back on his ranch in Texas.

But before you condemn Bush for going soft on the
ChiComs, consider the unfortunate timing of their
military provocation. Not even the first string of the
new president’s diplomatic team is fully in place.

Only three people have been confirmed in the whole
State Department, and secretary Colin Powell is one of

That leaves Clinton administration holdovers at the
working level — and they are part of the problem, not
the solution, in this crisis.

Bush is acting timid in large part because he’s having
to rely on China cheerleaders appointed by President
Clinton to do the hard negotiating.

One of them, and a key one at that, is Adm. Joseph
Prueher. As U.S. ambassador to China, he is our top
negotiator on the ground right now in Beijing.

When he headed Pacific Command, he was so dovish on
China that he was known in the Pentagon as
“Panda-Hugging Prueher.”

To say the Clinton appointee was cozy with the
hardliners in China’s People’s Liberation Army is an
understatement. He was their gracious host.

He invited PLA brass on our nuclear subs. He gave them
front-row seats to our military exercises in Hawaii,
something from which they’d previously been banned. He
pushed for joint training of our forces.

And, reliable sources in Congress and in the Pentagon
say, he even altered our battle plans to make it hard
for us to defend our ally Taiwan against a Mainland
China attack.

I know, it’s hard to fathom an admiral doing something
so, well, traitorous.

But consider that Prueher in 1997 bragged privately to
foreign-policy and military scholars at Stanford
University that he had held back one of two aircraft
carriers dispatched to back Taiwan after China had
fired missiles and bracketed the island before
Taiwan’s 1996 elections. Why? So as not to
“antagonize” Beijing, Prueher confided to the group.

Despite what the Clinton administration told the
public, the second carrier, the USS Nimitz, never joined the USS Independence on the scene during the
Taiwan Strait crisis
. The administration lied about its show of force. In
fact, the “tough” response was all show, designed to
appease Beijing and China hawks in Congress at the
same time.

How do I know that Prueher said he throttled the
operation to mollify Beijing? People who were in that
closed-door meeting told me so. (Prueher, speaking
through a spokeswoman in his Beijing office, declined
my request for an interview last year when I filed my
report on this newssite.)

And how do I know we didn’t really send two carriers
steaming to Taiwan’s rescue? A Navy spokeswoman
confirmed it, on the record, and got in hot water for
it afterward. (The Navy refuses to release Nimitz’s
logs to see if it was stationed in the South China
Sea at the time, claiming they are classified, even
though Nimitz has been docked for an overhaul in
Newport News, Va., until 2003.)

What’s more, a Navy watch officer aboard the USS
Independence at the time of the crisis later confirmed
WorldNetDaily’s exclusive that Nimitz never showed up.

It’s plain that Prueher was in the tank with Clinton
and his China appeasement policy, and was no doubt
rewarded for it with his ambassadorship.

This is who Bush is stuck with.

Diplomats have both carrots and sticks in their
negotiating bags, but not Prueher. Don’t expect him
to, when all nice-nice is exhausted in Beijing, even
hint that we will not hesitate to use such sticks as:

  • Canceling all high-level military contacts and
    training exercises.
  • Stopping visits to Los Alamos and canceling
    lab-to-lab scientific collaborations.
  • Tightening controls on dual-use exports to China.
  • Or blocking China’s entry into the World Trade

This is real leverage, because it hits the ChiComs
where it hurts most.

China is trying to modernize its military to retake
Taiwan and project power throughout South Asia. To do
so, it needs U.S. capital and U.S. military secrets.

Threaten to take that away, and we’d more than likely
get our airmen back post haste. In fact, we might even
get an apology from Beijing for hijacking our
reconnaissance plane to Hainan.

But first Bush must replace Panda-Hugging Prueher at
the bargaining table.

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