Serbia is one problem

China is quite another

Smart bomb: Confused by dim intelligence, it hit wrong target, but NATO must push ahead.

May 11, 1999

NATO must stay the course -- even when things go wrong -- bombing Serbia until it agrees to reverse the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo and return its people to live in peace secure from terror.

The bomb that destroyed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on Friday, killing three Chinese, was a smart bomb that worked. Human intelligence programmed it to hit the wrong building, 200 yards from the right one.

The intended target was Yugoslav military procurement headquarters. The building hit had been China's embassy for the past two years.

They were using old maps. By NATO consensus, this was the CIA's fault. The agency chose the targets. But several layers of military bureaucracy, U.S. and NATO, approved the selection.

What happened next in Beijing was about Sino-U.S. relations, not Kosovo. The United States criticizes China on human rights, and here was the United States killing Chinese citizens. The United States demands China allow citizens to demonstrate, here they were freely besieging the U.S. embassy.

This new Chinese sense of grievance comes as the United States is properly complaining about espionage, meddling in U.S. campaign financing and the wisdom of military cooperation that dates from the Nixon era.

If Washington needs to reconsider the relationship, so does Beijing. If China does not want to hear the Boston Symphony, that is China's loss. The catch is that Washington still has something to give that Beijing craves -- admission to the World Trade Organization. Free access of WTO members to China's markets is a fair price, which China has not yet been willing to pay.

This is a topic far removed from the purpose of bombing, which is intended to end the genocide that has seen two-thirds of Kosovo's population expelled and many executed, raped and robbed. NATO conditions for ending the bombing properly remain in place.

Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic has begun offering concessions that are off the point. This suggests that the bombing is beginning to have the effects that NATO spokesmen claim. He must meet the conditions imposed.

The order to remove troops from Kosovo may be no more than rotation of troops. NATO needs to know that the Kosovars will return to Kosovo. The Kosovars need to know they will be safe to rebuild their lives.

NATO must exercise great care but still keep its eye on the true targets. The blunder-atrocity of the Chinese embassy is not cause to allow the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo to stand.

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