Hearings to Start on Pick for Hanoi: GOP's Request for Delay Denied

Article excerpt

A Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee will begin confirmation hearings this week on President Clinton's nominee for U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, despite objections from House Republicans who asked they be delayed until congressional hearings into campaign-finance irregularities conclude.

Four Republican House members sought the delay in a letter last week , asking if U.S.-Vietnam policies had been improperly influenced by illegal donations and questioning Mr. Clinton's receipt of a letter from the founder of the Lippo Group calling for a reversal of a long-standing trade embargo against Vietnam.

"We request that you not schedule any confirmation hearings concerning this nomination until the appropriate congressional committees have reported their findings on whether official U.S. foreign policy toward communist Vietnam has been improperly influenced by illegal foreign financial contributions to the Clinton/Gore re-election effort," the congressmen wrote.

The letter was signed by Reps. Benjamin A. Gilman and Gerald B.H. Solomon of New York, Dan Burton of Indiana and Sam Johnson of Texas.

Sen. Craig Thomas, Wyoming Republican and chairman of the subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific affairs, scheduled the hearings after saying he hoped to ask "very pertinent and specific" questions about the POW-MIA issue.

Mr. Clinton reneged on a 1992 campaign pledge for a "full accounting" of Americans missing in action during the Vietnam War when he ended the 30-year embargo in February 1994. He has since proposed Rep. Pete Peterson, Florida Democrat, as U.S. ambassador. Mr. Peterson - like Mr. Johnson - is a former prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Mochtar Riady, who heads the $6.9 billion, Indonesia-based Lippo empire, asked Mr. Clinton in a March 9, 1993, letter to normalize relations with Vietnam, noting that two Lippo officials were scouting investment opportunities there. The president responded on April 5, 1993, saying the letter had been sent to Robert E. …