North Korea deal
A week after the Pentagon issued a report warning that North Korea
is building up its military forces and remains a major danger, the
Clinton administration is set to make concessions to the communist
Talks between U.S. and North Korean officials kicked off this week in
New York. The main topics, we are told, include problems with adherence
to the 1994 Agreed Framework that was supposed to halt North Korea's
nuclear arms program, and North Korea's continued development of
The U.S. side also is planning to remove North Korea from the State
Department's list of state sponsors of international terrorism, even
though Pyongyang continues to harbor terrorists and has been linked to a
past terror bombing in Southeast Asia.
Diplomatic sources said they hope to coax the North Koreans into
inviting State's new coordinator for North Korean policy, Wendy Sherman,
to visit Pyongyang early next month. In exchange, North Korea will be
taken off the terrorism list. There's a problem, however. Japanese
officials are not on
board. Tokyo is demanding Pyongyang resolve cases of Japanese citizens
abducted by North Korean agents and taken to the peninsula.
TRENDING: Snake handler
Senate, the Corps
We've obtained a letter from Senate leaders delivering Defense
Secretary William S. Cohen a final "no'' to proposed changes that would
make the Army Corps of Engineers more beholden to Army political
Army Secretary Louis Caldera first proposed the reordering earlier
this year, only to suspended the plan after senators intervened with Mr.
Cohen. Mr. Caldera tried to rekindled his ideas in a thick packet of
justifications sent to senators on Aug. 31. But they were not swayed.
"We do not find that justification exists to warrant implementation
of these proposed reforms at this time,'' said the Sept. 13 letter from
three Republican senators: Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens of
Alaska; Armed Services Chairman John W. Warner of Virginia; and
Environmental and Public Works Chairman Robert C. Smith of New
The three had assembled a team of staffers to investigate the need
for management reforms and whether the Corps was the victim of undue
political pressure from Army civilians and the White House.
The letter said the probe is complete. The staffers found no
compelling reason for Mr. Caldera's shakeup and insufficient evidence to
prove Army civilians interfered in Corps' environmental assessments.
As a backdrop, liberal environmental groups have launched an all-out
assault on the Corps and are pressuring the White House to diminish its
power to approve waterway projects.
The Corps is beloved, however, by many Democratic and Republican
lawmakers. They view the institution as a friend of local communities
who need flood-control, navigation and dredging projects.
Internal Army documents obtained by The Washington Times show that
Army civilians ordered the Corps not to release its recommendation to
leave in place four dams on Washington's Snake River. The normal
procedure was for the Corps to release its findings for public comment.
Environmental groups, most of whom back the presidential candidacy of
Democrat Al Gore, want the dams
The three senators wrote that retired Lt. Gen. Joe Ballard, the
former Corps commander, supplied testimony and documents at
"We have concluded,'' the senators wrote Mr. Cohen, "that while some
of the events described in the documents reflect poor judgment by a
number of officials at the Corps, in the assistant (Army) secretary's
office, and elsewhere in the executive branch, there is not sufficient
evidence of inappropriate or illegal conduct to warrant further
investigation by the committee at this time. However, based on our
evaluation of the documents, we also believe that it is unnecessary to
implement any significant management reforms at this time.''
"This letter confirms that the committees' inquiry into the basis and
need for Secretary Caldera's proposed management reforms is closed. The
committee will not need any further information from the secretary of
China wars (continued)
Retired Rear Adm. Eric McVadon is upset with our characterization of
him as a pro-China "panda hugger.'' We noted earlier that the admiral,
according to a Navy source, had "dumbed down'' Chinese forces in several
secret Navy war games to make sure U.S. always forces win.
He also was mentioned as the kind of analyst Senate Intelligence
Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican, had in mind
when the senator recently criticized U.S. intelligence analysis on China
as excessively benign.
A CIA source tells us Adm. McVadon, a consultant to the CIA and the
Navy, insisted to colleagues at the CIA that quotes attributed to him in
this column were made up about China's weapons technology development.
Here are the quotes from Adm. McVadon from the 1999 Rand Corp. study,
"The People's Liberation Army in the Information Age'':
- "Chinese research and development is immature, isolated,
fragmented and unfocused, all of which have stymied the gathering of
needed momentum for the development of advanced military technologies
and integrated weapons systems.''
- "... the PLA is anywhere from 10 years to two generations behind
the modern armed forces in technological acquisition, assimilation, and
- "In a broader context, China is not likely to catch up with the
U.S. or advanced countries in the region, like Japan and Australia.''
- "Put colorfully, the PLA may rely on its dream of leapfrogging
through technology exploitation and yet awaken 10 years into the next
century to find itself still somewhere between 10 years and two
Critics in government -- who are dismissed as "alarmists'' by
the panda huggers -- tell us the admiral's views have stifled debate on
Chinese military developments, hindered intelligence collection on
China, and minimized the growing threat posed by Beijing.
In reality, China is building up its forces and weapons know-how fast
and furious. In January Beijing launched its first in a series of
command and control communications satellites that will help integrate
its forces. On Sept. 1, it orbited a remote-sensing satellite that will
military targeting capabilities.
"You distort everything,'' Adm. McVadon told us.
- Add mattresses to the list of accouterments the Navy is
adding to ships to make life easier for sailors, the service reports.
The Navy is trying out "gender-neutral'' commodes in some surface ships
to replace male-only urinals. The switch would make each ship's "heads''
male-female interchangeable, and, the Navy says, rid vessels of stinky,
hard-to-clean urinals. Now, the Navy is putting new spring mattresses
aboard ships to replace worn-out lumpy bedding. Price tag: $36 million.
The USS attack sub Norfolk received the sleep aids recently before
commencing a long, underwater cruise. The toilets and mattresses are
part of a broader program started by Navy Secretary Richard Danzig to
improve the lot of average sailors.
- Rep. Floyd D. Spence, the outgoing chairman of the House Armed
Services Committee, said the Pentagon will need between $60 billion and
$100 billion a year more than current funding levels to fix combat
readiness problems. The South Carolina Republican spoke at the Center
Policy dinner Wednesday night where he was honored with the Keeper of
the Flame Award. "We have got to do more,'' he said in an appeal for
helping the depleted U.S. military.