Thursday, January 11, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, January 11, 2001

Inouye praises Bush's defense team, but urges focus on Asia

Inouye says Army must use Makua

By Michele Kayal
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii’s senior U.S. senator yesterday praised the proposed defense and security team of President-elect Bush as "first class," but raised concerns about their Euro-centric focus and collective inexperience in the Asia-Pacific region.

"We will have to convince the new security team that this is where the action is," Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii told local business leaders yesterday. He repeated the message later in the day to military officers and legislators. "It is in our national interest that this country of ours focus greater attention on this area."

Bush has tapped Donald Rumsfeld, Gerald Ford’s defense secretary for the same post in the new administration; Soviet expert Condoleezza Rice for national security adviser; and Gen. Colin Powell, who headed the senior George Bush’s Gulf War effort as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for secretary of state. Vice president-elect Dick Cheney served as defense secretary under the elder Bush when the Berlin Wall was coming down.

"The Wall was the big thing, the Cold War," Inouye said. "Most of the attention of the government then was on Europe."

With the U.S. Pacific Command based in Hawaii, the state occupies a central position in the region’s security. Eight of the world’s 10 largest armies, Inouye noted, are within the command’s jurisdiction. The governor and other state officials often speak hopefully of making Hawaii a "Geneva of the Pacific," a meeting place for military and diplomatic efforts.

More and more, U.S. security interests have shifted toward Asia, he said.

China is "the biggest question mark in the world," Inouye said. Sworn enemies India and Pakistan now have nuclear weapons, and a newly opened North Korea poses the risk of instability along one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders.

Inouye suggested that he expects to support the Republican president’s nominees in confirmation hearings, even though some of their positions may differ from his own.

"Unless the hearing and investigative process discloses matters of grave concern, we would support the nominee," he said.

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