U.S. Senators and Representatives Write Clinton on Suharto Visit
United States Senate
President William J. Clinton
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing out of concern about the continuing pattern of severe human rights abuses in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, a predominately Catholic island which has been occupied by Indonesia since 1975.
We have appreciated your statements on human rights in East Timor in the past, particularly at the meeting of Asian Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) last November. We hope you will take the opportunity to raise these concerns and others when President Suharto arrives in Washington on October 24.
The tension in East Timor has been intensifying in the past year, influenced in part by the ongoing power struggles in Jakarta; the increased resentment of the presence of Indonesian military officers and vigilante group; and the 100,000-200,000 Indonesian settlers the government has brought in to consolidate their occupation of the island.
Violence in the territory has been on the increase as well, especially since the APEC Summit in Jakarta last November. As you know, during the Summit protestors were detained and, by most accounts, tortured at the hands of Indonesian soldiers. Other reports of deaths of protestors at the hands of the Indonesian soldiers have been constant all year. Recently, there has also been an outbreak of gang violence in East Timor: hooded vigilantes - described by residents and human rights monitors as military-related bands - have been seen terrorizing, abducting, assaulting, intimidating, and harassing East Timorese civilians.
These recent developments underscore the need to accelerate the United Nations-sponsored dialogue on East Timor, with genuine East Timorese participation. We believe that the U.S. should strongly support such diplomacy as a vehicle to advance the numerous previous United Nations resolutions on East Timor. The dialogue should be aimed at a demilitarization of the territory, and work toward a just solution that respects the rights of all parties to the conflict.
President Suharto comes to Washington on the 50th anniversary of Indonesia's declaration of independence from Dutch colonialism, against which he and many others fought bravely. On this historic occasion, we take pride in the fact that actions taken by the United States Senate in the late 1940's probably hastened Indonesia's independence from the Netherlands. It certainly would seem appropriate that the U.S. take the same principled stance in opposition to the Indonesian occupation of East Timor.
We recognize and appreciate the importance of a strong and positive U.S.-Indonesian relationship. For that reason, we believe it is in the interest of that bilateral relationship to work toward a genuine resolution of the East Timor problem. Thus, it is in the spirit of the long U.S.-Indonesian friendship and historical links that we offer these proposals, and urge you to raise these concerns in your meeting with President Suharto.
Thank you for your consideration.
Congress of the United States
October 20, 1995
President William J. Clinton
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing out of concern about the continuing pattern of severe human rights abuses in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, which has been occupied by Indonesia since 1975.
We have appreciated your Statements on human rights in East Timor in the past, particularly at the meeting of Asian Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) last November. We hope you will take the opportunity to raise these concerns and others when President Suharto arrives in Washington this week.
Tension and violence in East Timor has been on the rise in the past year, especially since the APEC summit in Jakarta last November. As you know, during the Summit protestors were reportedly detained and tortured by Indonesian soldiers, and throughout the year there have been additional reports of protestors dying at the hands of Indonesian soldiers.
These recent developments underscore the need to accelerate the United Nations-sponsored dialogue on East Timor with genuine East Timorese participation. We believe that the U.S. should strongly support such diplomatic actions as a vehicle to advance previous United Nations resolutions on East Timor. The dialogue should be aimed at a demilitarization of the territory, and work toward a just solution that respects the rights of all parties to the conflict.
President Suharto comes to Washington for the 50th United Nations General Assembly, but this year also marks the 50th anniversary of Indonesia's declaration of independence from Dutch colonialism against which he and many others fought bravely. As actions taken by the United States Congress in the late 1940's hastened Indonesia's independence from the Netherlands, so too can we take a stand now against the Indonesian occupation of East Timor.
We recognize and appreciate the importance of a strong and positive U.S-Indonesian relationship. Indeed it in the spirit of this relationship that we urge you to raise these concerns in your meeting with President Suharto.
The New York Times
By DAVID E. SANGER
WASHINGTON, Oct. 30
Fidel Castro never got so much as a smile or a handshake when he stepped into the same reception with President Clinton last week; the Secret Service deftly kept them from coming face to face.
President Jiang Zemin of China did a bit better. The Administration quashed his hopes for a state visit, but insisted that a largely empty two-hour meeting in New York had advanced the cause of "comprehensive engagement" with the Chinese, the kind of engagement Mr. Castro is desperate to win.
And then came Suharto, the aging, military-backed leader of Indonesia, and a man who also knows a good deal about how to keep dissenters under control. When he arrived at the White House on Friday for a "private" visit with the President, the Cabinet room was jammed with top officials ready to welcome him. Vice President Gore was there, along with Secretary of State Warren Christopher; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili; Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown; the United States trade representative, Mickey Kantor; the national security adviser, Anthony Lake, and many others.
"There wasn't an empty chair in the room," one participant said. "No one used to treat the Indonesians like this, and it said a lot about how our priorities in the world have changed."
For a quick understanding of how the Clinton Administration balances American economic interests abroad, Presidential election politics at home and human rights concerns around the world these days, simply look at how President Clinton dealt with three very different, very authoritarian foreign visitors.
For years Washington has embraced dictatorial leaders, particularly anti-Communist ones, when it served the national interest. But in interviews in recent days, Administration officials said the treatment of Mr. Castro, Mr. Jiang and Mr. Suharto was driven by very different litmus tests, a potent mix of power politics and emerging markets.
Of all the three leaders, Mr. Castro probably evokes the strongest emotional response, especially in the Cuban community in Florida, where anti-Castro sentiment remains at a fever pitch and a crucial state in the coming election. "There are no votes riding on how we deal with Indonesia, and not many on how we deal with China," one of Mr. Clinton's foreign policy advisers said the other day. "Castro is still political dynamite."
And of the three, he has the fewest strategic and economic cards to play. Russia no longer cares about Mr. Castro's fate. And he has few other sources of capital to reach for. The Europeans, the Japanese and the overseas Chinese, who are vying for manufacturing footholds in Indonesia and China, could care less about his little island.
That allows the United States the luxury of continuing a policy of isolating Cuba while proclaiming that "engaging" other hard-line Communist countries, including China, Vietnam and North Korea, is the best way to bring about change in their Governments.
"You use your leverage where you can find it, and we are in a unique position to isolate Castro," a senior Administration official said on Friday when asked what it would have cost Mr. Clinton to shake Mr. Castro's hand. "It is a real power politics approach, but why would we want to give him the status and respectability that would come from a meeting with the President until he has given way? And if he doesn't deal with us, who else can he turn to?"
Fred Bergsten, who heads the Institute for International Economics in Washington, noted recently: "Cuba is the anomaly. Not only are its relations with the U.S. driven by domestic politics here, it has nothing to offer. Vietnam at least has 90 million people in a terrific neighborhood, a place where everyone wants a plant." And those who want to deal with Mr. Castro -- including most of the nations in Latin America -- do not have the billions of dollars in capital available to build highways, plants and factories there, even if they were willing to take the political risk.
Mr. Jiang presented a far more complex case for the White House. Since the beginning of the summer, when China was outraged by the Clinton Administration's decision to allow Taiwan's President, Lee Teng-hui, to make a so-called private visit to Cornell University, the State Department has been consumed with getting back on speaking terms with Beijing. The rebuilding process began with Mr. Christopher, who met his Chinese counterpart in Brunei, and then New York. The Chinese responded by releasing Harry Wu, an American who had been seized and charged with espionage during one of his human rights investigations in China.
But Mr. Clinton is having a harder and harder time making the case that his decision two years ago to "delink" the issue of human rights from the annual extension of preferential trade treatment is paying off. Nor is there much evidence that "commercial engagement," a phrase coined by Mr. Brown, has resulted in significantly better treatment for dissidents.
Moreover, he can hardly boast too loudly about the economic benefits reaped by his new approach. American exports to China have risen slowly -- they now stand at about $9 billion -- but the trade deficit has exploded to Japan-like levels.
Certainly there is huge pressure from American businesses to keep all channels to the Government open, but privately American business executives tell tale after tale of frustration. Of the $6 billion in deals signed with great fanfare by Mr. Brown in Beijing last year, two-thirds have barely made progress.
But unlike Cuba, China is all about huge potential, upside and downside. Failure to get into the market is seen as tantamount to surrender to Japanese, Taiwanese and European business interests. And everyone in Asia expects the United States to continue acting as the counterweight to Chinese military power -- without, of course, feeding China's fear that a containment policy is under way.
"This is a case where you are dealing with a great power, and you have no choice but to make sure that your contacts stay open," one of Mr. Clinton's top foreign policy advisers said last week. "But bring Jiang to a state dinner, with trumpets and everything? That would be a bit much for everyone to take."
That leaves Mr. Suharto, who is sitting on the ultimate emerging market: some 13,000 islands, a population of 193 million and an economy growing at more than 7 percent a year. The country remains wildly corrupt and Mr. Suharto's family controls leading businesses that competitors in Jakarta would be unwise to challenge. But Mr. Suharto, unlike the Chinese, has been savvy in keeping Washington happy. He has deregulated the economy, opened Indonesia to foreign investors and kept the Japanese, Indonesia's largest supplier of foreign aid, from grabbing more than a quarter of the market for goods imported into the country.
So Mr. Clinton made the requisite complaints about Indonesia's repressive tactics in East Timor, where anti-Government protests continue, and moved right on to business, getting Mr. Suharto's support for market-opening progress during the annual Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Osaka in mid-November.
"He's our kind of guy," a senior Administration official who deals often on Asian policy, said the other day. "The message of his visit was clear: this is the kind of relationship we want to have with China."
Note: For those without a fax application on their computer - CallCenter V3.5.8, is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from http://www.v3inc.com/