For Release: 1:00 PM
Thursday, June 19, 1997
450 Maple Avenue East
Vienna, VA 22180
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Charles Orndorff, (703) 938-9626
Lt. General Gordon Sumner (USA-Ret.), who served as Chairman of the Inter-American Defense Board during the Carter Administration during the Reagan Administration, has warned that America faces the loss of the most strategically crucial choke point in the Western Hemisphere unless Congress acts promptly to maintain U.S. bases in Panama and to reverse a decision to turn over key port facilities on the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the Panama Canal to a Hong Kong company with close ties to communist China.
General Sumner, speaking at a news conference sponsored by The Conservative Caucus, returned recently from Panama where, according to General Sumner, there is overwhelming popular support for continuation of the U.S. military presence in that country.
General Sumner said: "It is a tragedy that Congress has failed to appropriate sufficient funds to maintain our bases in Panama through the end of the century, and to negotiate a lease agreement for their continuation after the turn of the century."
According to General Sumner, "A premature reversion of our bases is 'penny wise and pound foolish.' We are creating a geostrategic vacuum which could very well be filled by a People's Republic of China with expansive global ambitions."
"We are not talking about a lot of money," Sumner pointed out, "perhaps $40 or $50 million per year. That's a pittance," the General said, "compared to the $6 billion we have spent in Bosnia -- a part of the world that has no direct correlation to our vital security interests."
Conservative Caucus Chairman Howard Phillips added: "Control of the Panamanian isthmus, at the 'belt buckle' of the Western Hemisphere, is particularly important at a time when America no longer has a two ocean navy. In time of war, we must be able to rapidly transmit vessels between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. If Congress fails to act promptly, communist China may be able to checkmate our strategic requirements."
The Conservative Caucus (TCC) is a non-partisan, grassroots, public policy action organization founded in 1974. In 1977 and 1978, TCC led a national campaign against ratification of the Carter-Torrijos Panama Canal Treaties.
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