Big Power To-Do List

Europeans and Americans have major choices to focus on close to home. But their leaders shouldn't ignore some good news and worries in Asia.

In Europe there's Kosovo, Germany's disarray on nuclear power plants, and whether to choose a strong euro or more jobs.

In the US there's what to do with forecast budget surpluses, whether bipartisanship can revive after impeachment, and, also, Kosovo.

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Let's tender some terse thoughts on those matters. And then turn to Asia's nascent comeback.

At this writing Kosovo action hangs in the balance. But, however the brinkmanship ends, the big NATO powers will likely find themselves headed toward a long period of policing a troubled cooling off period there.

Germany's hybrid government can't close down nuke power generators as promised. Replacement power will take time, and mustn't be environmentally worse.

On job creation, the Schrder government must realize it can have its cake and eat it too if it will stop tilting at Europe's new central bank. Badgering will only undermine the bank's independence. Better to calmly wait for it to lower interest rates further. That should stimulate business - and jobs. Lower rates are likely later this year, especially if the US Fed lowers.

In Washington a bipartisan consensus ought to form around the idea of using Social Security surpluses only to fund Social Security (by paying down the national debt). Education reform can best be led with benchmark standards from Washington but locally tailored plans administered by the states.

Now to Asia:

Economic turnaround appears to be slowly occurring. China has not devalued its currency. At the village level, democratic elections and thriving enterprises counter the rigidity and corruption of central Communist Party rule. Consumers keep economic growth alive despite the decline of exports. Turnarounds in Thailand, Korea, and other neighbors - plus Japan's tackling of its banks' debt crisis should help Asia's bounce.

China's missile buildup along its coast opposite Taiwan is unsettling. So are military emplacements on disputed offshore islands. President Clinton must quietly tell China's president Jiang Zemin at their forthcoming summit that trade and technology cooperation will suffer unless this military provocation ends. Europe and Japan should reinforce that logic.

For Europe, job sanity; US, budget surplus sanity; Asia, missile sanity.

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