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FRANCE



Published: Mon, August 6, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Le Monde, Paris, August 1: George W. Bush just finished his second trip to Europe, but Europeans, including the French, still retain the caricature-like image they held of him during his difficult election.

The politics of Mr. Bush, each new day, reveals itself to be more and more unilateralist.

He has tried to impose his views on the subject of missile defense; he tried to win a global consensus on the struggle against global warming; he is opposed to the control of firearms trafficking and laundering of dirty money.

European Union: Twelve years after the end of the Communist Bloc, faced with a European Union that is no longer a simple common market, Washington can barely wait for the allies to accept its decisions.

Confronted by stubborn allies, Mr. Bush relented a bit to reaffirm his country's place in NATO by confirming the engagement of American troops in the Balkans and by giving his backing for European defense. However, he also maneuvered circuitously around Europe by avoiding its core: France and Germany.

How far can Mr. Bush press his ambitions?

GERMANY

Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin, July 30: The good news: They're speaking again.

The tete- & aacute;-tete between the United States and China yielded little. The point is that it took place at all. Three months ago, their relationship plummeted after the collision of their military jets over China's coastline. Each side verbally attacked the other and the two cut off much of their diplomatic contact. The quarrel paralyzed politics worldwide.

Decay: U.S. President George W. Bush had declared China a "strategic competitor." Beijing responded with stubborn nationalism. Perhaps things had to decay this badly before Washington and Beijing finally understood the world couldn't afford a serious conflict between them.

Of course, the problem's haven't disappeared with Colin Powell's visit. Missile defense, the Kyoto climate pact, human rights, the Taiwan question -- there are plenty of explosive issues. If no new crisis is to emerge as a result, China and the United States have to strengthen their diplomacy.

BRITAIN

The Guardian, London, July 31: Canada became the first country in the world yesterday to legalize the use of cannabis by people suffering from terminal illnesses and chronic conditions. It will still be illegal to sell the drug for non medical use but patients, with the approval of physicians, will be able to grow and take the drug or appoint someone to grow it for them. Even bolder, the Canadian government is preparing to produce the drug as well as set up a research study to examine its therapeutic use. Good for Canada.

Therapeutic use: Scientific opinion remains divided over the therapeutic use of the drug. Meanwhile, our political editor reported yesterday that Prime Minister Blair had no intention of liberalizing the social use of any drugs. Reformers should not get too depressed. This reform will not be driven by politicians, but the police and public.

The Metropolitan Police is already experimenting with decriminalizing cannabis in Brixton. For good reasons. A cannabis arrest can take two officers off the street for five hours and end up costing 10,000 pounds ($16,000) in court time. Opinion polls show that half of all adults -- let alone young people -- believe cannabis should not be illegal and 99 percent think it should have the lowest police priority. The Brixton pilot should prove the correctness of these polls.

THAILAND

Bangkok Post, July 31: The forces behind the growing crop of poppies in the Colombian highlands are currently expanding the country's huge trade in cocaine and heroin. They also happen to be the leftist forces which have waged a long and deadly war in Colombia for years. Bogota's recent actions play into the rebels' hands both in the drug and political wars.

Herbicides: Indian and independent sources say the government has begun spraying the opium crops with herbicides. The Indian farmers oppose the spraying in principle, but their main complaint is serious. Government planes are allegedly dumping herbicides on ordinary crops as well. This puts the entire highly promising campaign against heroin in Colombia under a cloud and for no good reason.

If applied correctly, crop substitution can wipe out all commercial opium. Farmers will move to more profitable and safer crops. We already know this can happen because it has happened in Thailand.

JAPAN

Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, July 28: Apart from the rancor that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni would generate, Japan's diplomatic relations with its neighbors are strained these days because of revisionist history in public school textbooks and other issues. If Koizumi visits Yasukuni, relations are certain to become even cooler.

Religious belief: Koizumi observed that it is a popular sentiment to believe that even executed Class-A war criminals would attain Buddhist enlightenment in the afterlife, but that is simply his personal religious belief. The people of neighboring nations still suffer the emotional and physical wounds of war, and some are concerned that Japan might forget its history and begin anew to act with arrogance and recklessness in Asia.

Public acts that ignore the feelings of our neighbors will hurt Japan's global image and damage our national interests. Koizumi seems to be utterly lacking in such empathy.

There is a distinction between holding personal beliefs and insisting that those beliefs are the only true beliefs. Koizumi should cancel his visit to Yasukuni Shrine.




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