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  •   McCain Says China Policy Hurts U.S. Security

    By Dan Balz
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, March 16, 1999; Page A16

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) stepped up his criticism of President Clinton's China policy yesterday, saying charges that the president put his reelection needs ahead of the national interest grow "more credible every day."

    McCain made his criticisms in a speech at Kansas State University the text of which was made available in Washington in an effort to outline his foreign policy views as he prepares to formally launch his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000. He put forward a set of principles he said should guide the country's foreign relations but, already in the campaign spirit, spent a good part of his talk attacking Clinton's foreign policy record.

    He accused the administration of conducting a foreign policy of "strategic incoherence and self-doubt." Calling the administration's policies "spasmodic, vacillating and reactive," McCain was critical of the administration's approach toward North Korea and Iraq as well as China.

    Reaching into the vocabulary of football, he said the administration chose a "prevent defense" over coercive measures to deny the North Koreans nuclear weapons. McCain acknowledged that tougher measures might have risked war but said the administration's policy has left North Korea no more stable and far more dangerous.

    McCain, who earlier called for an outside investigation of allegations that the Chinese stole sensitive U.S. nuclear weapons technology, joined other Republicans in criticizing the administration's policy of constructive engagement toward China, saying it has resulted in damage to U.S. security.

    McCain called China's deteriorating record on human rights and its increasingly aggressive posture in Asia "an alarming turn of events" and said the administration "deserves much of the blame" for what has happened. "Engagement is not surrender," McCain said. "Engagement does not require us to cede to China advantages that come at the expense of our own security."

    He charged the administration with "a strangely relaxed attitude" toward the new allegations of espionage involving the Chinese and said U.S. officials under Clinton have "insisted upon extremely liberal licensing practices" for technology transfers to China. He questioned whether the administration is guilty of well-meaning mistakes to advance better relations with China, saying he is increasingly troubled by indications that Clinton put his political interests ahead of the country's, a reference to the fund-raising allegations surrounding Clinton's 1996 campaign.

    "If it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, it will bring more of history's shame upon the president than his personal failings will indeed greater shame than any president has ever suffered," McCain said.

    The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction represents a clear danger, McCain said, as he called for the creation of an anti-ballistic missile defense and the abrogation of the ABM treaty negotiated with the former Soviet Union.

    Anticipating a GOP primary debate over America's role in the world, McCain firmly put himself in the "internationalist" camp and described the isolationist wing of the party as having "a cramped view of American purpose" that is "blind to the futility of building walls" in a global environment that continues to shrink.

    McCain said the United States must lead the world but should not succumb to the idea that it must project its power wherever other nations say it should. He also rejected the view that foreign policy represents a trade-off between protecting U.S. security interests and promoting American values.

    The former Navy pilot and Vietnam prisoner of war said the use of force must be part of American policy, as long as there are clear rules of engagement and a definable mission.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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