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The Speaker’s Reaction: Dennis Hastert

May 26, 1999 at 12:00 AM EDT
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KWAME HOLMAN: Mr. Speaker, what is your personal view of the results of the Select Committee report on Chinese espionage?

REP. DENNIS HASTERT: Well, all the players that Mr. Cox, Norm Dicks, Porter Goss are pretty serious people; and, hence, I think bipartisan effort to try to find what really happened, where the problems were, where there were lapses in our security, where there was lapses in our export policy, and I think it was an incredible open process to come up with the real report of actually what happened. So I think it’s a high quality report. It’s a little bit disturbing, what the contents in it and what the repercussions of that would be in our national defense. But I think it was a very high quality report done by very serious people. KWAME HOLMAN: Where do you place the blame for the report’s conclusions that the Chinese did commit significant espionage?  

REP. DENNIS HASTERT: Well, I think, first of all, a lot of the blame has to go to the Chinese, but obviously that’s their program. We would expect that of the Chinese or the Russians, or actually of many of our “friends” are actually trying to get intelligence from us. So the real blame goes to our laxness, and I am not going to say who I think is specifically at blame. I don’t think I have the ability to do that, nor the resources to do that, but the administration needs to find out where those lapses took place, whether it was DOE, or whether it was Department of Justice, and then try to, first of all, rectify the problems that exist, and then secondly claim the responsibility and try to fix it.

KWAME HOLMAN: How should the report impact relations between the United States and China?

REP. DENNIS HASTERT: Well, I think militarily it will have a long-term effect on the impact because I think one has given away our national secrets and the Rosenberg situation in the 1940′s certainly gave way secrets that Russians and put them ahead of the missile game — Sputnik and all the other things that came out of that. I think this is more far reaching, because this could reach well into — far into the next decade for twenty to thirty years, this type of technology.

So we need to have a better job of dealing with that. First of all, we can’t let that type of technology slip out again. It didn’t happen just at missiles but it happened at submarine technology and other types of things that are very, very important. But I think in the long term we’ll have — this will repercussions in our military relationships. But I think on the other side we also need to be engaged with the Chinese. I don’t think we can isolate them. China has become a huge trade partner with the United States.

As they have become engaged with us in trade and the give and take of commerce, we’ve seen democracy, small glimmerings of democracy, small glimmerings of capitalism happen. We’ve seen the behavior change in Chinese attitude. We’ve seen laws being developed, the rule of law, the transparency — those types of things — because of the result of our trade — and I think that’s good. It’s good for us.

It’s good for the Chinese people, good for the world to have rule of law in a place like China. And I don’t think we can completely disengage. I think we would be at fault. As a matter of fact, if we disengage, we could go backwards in that relationship. And I think that would be — put us in even greater danger.

KWAME HOLMAN: Some of the criticism has begun to break down along party lines, including at a House hearing today. Do you fear that partisan blame will a become a part of the result of this Chinese reform?

REP. DENNIS HASTERT: Well, you have to look at the source. The committee was completely bipartisan. They did their work in a bipartisan way — and the report was voted out in a unanimous bipartisan vote. I think you have to look at their source. If someone were going to cover up, you can start to do a finger pointing game and play partisan politics. I think for the good of the American people we need to try to focus on what those problems are and get the problems fixed. The blame game will always be out there, and that’s why I’m a little bit reticent to start to point fingers myself. I don’t know who’s absolutely to blame for this. But the administration has the responsibility to find where the blame lies, to try to rectify that, and whether the real fault was in the Department of Energy or the Department of Justice, where those lapses happened, we need to close them up.

KWAME HOLMAN: You would not advocate either from a legislative point of view, or from a policy point of view a substantial change in the way the United States deals with China?

REP. DENNIS HASTERT: Well, I think certainly this will have repercussions, but I think that we don’t retract from dealing with the Chinese because I think we need to constantly have that presence. I think we need to have the dialogue. Because I think we’ve influenced China’s role in the world in a positive light — back from that, we will see a more negative side of that reality.

KWAME HOLMAN: You would not advocate either from a legislative point of view, or from a policy point of view a substantial change in the way the United States deals with China?

REP. DENNIS HASTERT: Well, I think certainly this will have repercussions, but I think that we don’t retract from dealing with the Chinese because I think we need to constantly have that presence. I think we need to have the dialogue. China’s role in the world in a positive light – back from that, we will see a more negative side of that reality.

KWAME HOLMAN: What down sides would you see to changing policy?

REP. DENNIS HASTERT: Well, first of all, I think the whole area is important to us, our relationships, on our relationship with North Korea, the security of South Korea, the ability to deal with Japan. Our relationship with China really hinges on trying to keep those relationships in the whole Southeast Pacific area and Southeast area in line, and China is a major player. You can’t ignore China, then try to have the stability in that region.

KWAME HOLMAN: Thank you Mr. Speaker.