A recently declassified U.S. military report “confirms” that
Communist China is indeed a threat to the Panama Canal — an assessment
directly contradicting the public testimony given to the Senate by the
U.S. military, according to Rep. Bob Barr, R.-Ga.

“This Southern Command intelligence assessment confirms what I and
many others have been saying in reaction to the turnover of the Panama
Canal on December 31,” said Barr in an exclusive WorldNetDaily
interview. “Specifically, we have argued that Communist China has gained
a foothold in this strategic part of our hemisphere,” he said.

On Monday, WorldNetDaily reported

Rep. Bob Barr, R.-Ga.

that Judicial Watch, a legal
watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., forced the Clinton
administration to release an intelligence report on the Chinese threat
to the Panama Canal. The document, titled “Intelligence Assessment,”
was prepared by the U.S. Southern Command Joint Intelligence Center, and
is classified “SECRET//X1.”

On Oct. 22, 1999, Gen. Charles E. Wilhelm, USMC, Commander of the
Southern Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee
on the Panama Canal. Wilhelm’s testimony appears to contradict the
secret intelligence assessment prepared by his own command.

The “SECRET” U.S. military assessment was prepared on Oct. 26, 1999,
four days after Wilhelm’s testimony. WorldNetDaily has acquired a copy
of the general’s statements to the Senate, during which he stated there
was no threat from state-sponsored or “transnational” crime against

“Transnational crime in Panama will likely increase after the U.S.
withdraws, but presently, there is no identified threat to Canal
operations from transnational criminals,” the general stated.

However, according to the secret U.S. Southern Command assessment,
the Chinese firm that acquired control of the Canal, “Hutchison
Whampoa,” is indeed considered a threat.

“Hutchison’s containerized shipping facilities in the Panama Canal,
as well as the Bahamas, could provide a conduit for illegal shipments of
technology or prohibited items from the west to the PRC, or facilitate
the movement of arms and other prohibited items into the Americas,”
warns the report.

In addition, Wilhelm openly stated to the Senate Armed Services
Committee, “We are not aware of any current internal or external threat
to the Panama Canal, and we have no evidence that it has been targeted
by terrorists or foreign governments.”

He added, “Potential future external threats could include a hostile
foreign power and/or transnational criminal organizations. Cuba and
China have strong economic interests in Panama, but do not pose a threat
to the security of the Canal at this time.”

The Panama Canal

Yet, the secret U.S. Southern Command report noted that Beijing’s
direct ties to the owner of Hutchison Whampoa does pose a threat to the
weak Panamanian economy.

“Hutchison Whampoa’s owner, Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-Shing, has
extensive business ties in Beijing and has compelling financial reasons
to maintain a good relationship with Beijing. For example, Hutchison
Whampoa could threaten to shift some business from Panama to its
facilities in the Bahamas, thus giving the company additional leverage
over the Panamanian government,” states the intelligence report.

On Tuesday, the President called on Congress to act quickly to
approve permanent most-favored-nation trading status for China. However,
the newly declassified memo is not likely to help convince Congress to
pass the legislation quickly. Instead, according to Barr, the memo
shows that President Clinton may not be telling the truth about the
Chinese threat.

“According to the memo,” stated Barr, “Hutchison Whampoa has
‘extensive business ties’ to Beijing, and could use the leases to give
the Chinese ‘leverage over the Panamanian government’ and ‘a conduit for
illegal shipments of technology or prohibited items.'”

“These statements appear to contradict other information provided by
the administration last year,” concluded Barr.

Previous stories:

Does Beijing threaten Central America?

Forbes: Chinese bought Clinton, Gore

Supreme Court permits Canal transfer

In 2000, it’s China Canal

U.S. lowers flag on Panama Canal

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.