But the Bush administration could risk harming economic and arms control cooperation with China by pressing forward with a national missile defense, arming Taiwan with more advanced weapons, and more strongly criticizing or perhaps punishing Beijing for its human rights, arms proliferation and Taiwan policies.
The next White House will face firm pressure this spring from lobbyists and congressional Republicans who want the United States to sell Taiwan more advanced weaponry, such as Aegis destroyers and diesel submarines. Such deals were rejected this year by the Clinton administration. A decision on a package of weapons is usually made each April.
Sales of such weaponry, urged by many congressional Republicans as a counter to China’s growing military might, could possibly provoke Chinese aggression toward Taiwan, as Beijing has threatened.
Bush has said the United States should help Taiwan defend itself in the event of a Chinese invasion, but has not been specific about what equipment he would allow.
U.S. companies argue China is an important market for them. But congressional Republicans may pressure the Bush administration to prevent U.S. companies from selling China supercomputers and advanced machine tools and from buying Chinese satellite-launching services, because of national security concerns.
Congress may also urge the new administration to punish Russia more severely for proliferating military equipment and technology to Iran.
The Bush administration will also come in at a time when the United States is getting increasingly involved in the conflicts between the Colombian military and rebel guerillas and narco-producers and -traffickers. Concerns have been raised that America could be drawn in to Colombia’s conflict, like it was into the Vietnam War.
The United States for months has been providing new military equipment, training and better intelligence tools to help Colombian military forces better combat the drug traffickers. And two U.S.-trained Colombian battalions reportedly are preparing the in coming weeks to launch an offensive.
Bush said during the campaign he generally supports the $1.6 billion initiative, which also found bipartisan support in Congress last summer. But if the offensive fails, the administration may need to reconsider the strategy, perhaps committing more American military aid or reducing it.
Many of the U.S. officials closely involved in the policy have announced their intention of leaving government, including Undersecretary of State Thomas R. Pickering and the White House drug policy chief, Barry R. McCaffrey. And none of Bush’s current top advisers has significant Latin American or anti-drug experience.
State Department Security
The State Department has been plagued by security problems in recent years. It was discovered last year that a Russian spy had placed a bug in a supposedly secure conference room in the main building. And a laptop computer containing classified information disappeared and apparently was never recovered.
Since the incidents, the press has been permitted more limited access to department officials.
With Powell in charge, the rules could become stricter.