HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Sept. 25) - Despite overwhelming evidence that the United States will not grant a China-to-Guam visa waiver, Gov. Felix Camacho continues to chase the pipe dream that is China tourism.

Camacho was scheduled to leave today for a seven-day trip to the People's Republic of China, where he has secured a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhao Xing. The governor hopes to get "Approved Destination Status" for Guam from the Chinese government, which would open travel to our island by tourists, students and business people. He says this will be accomplished within 30 days.

Camacho says that once that is completed, then he will work with the State Department on getting a visa waiver within a year.

But military security issues on Guam translate into a nearly zero chance of the United States granting that visa waiver, which Camacho should be aware of because he previously has pushed to get a carrier group stationed on Guam. We already have several nuclear submarines homeported here, and just recently the Air Force completed exercises involving stealth aircraft.

So why would the federal government free up travel to Guam from a country that held a damaged U.S. spy plane in 2001? Why would they potentially expose military facilities and equipment to espionage?

And why would the Camacho administration risk current and future positive developments in military growth and expansion on Guam? We've worked too long to get that sector back as a strong part of our economy to chance damaging it now.

It's understandable that Camacho wants to find new markets for our long-suffering tourism industry. Guam just isn't bringing in the same numbers from Japan, and definitely isn't bringing in the big-spending visitors that marked the early 1990s. But China isn't the way to go. Instead of continuing the previous administration's squandering of taxpayer money on these China trips, Camacho should look at diversifying the types of visitors from our existing markets, or developing travel from areas that don't require a visa waiver.

Spending precious time and money on a tourism market that is questionable at best and impossible at worst is a waste of resources that could better be used elsewhere.

September 25, 2003

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