Defence minister Vetchy under fire after China trip

Vladimir Vetchy

The Czech Defence minister Vladimir Vetchy, whose cabinet seat has been looking decidedly shaky recently, came under fresh criticism last week following a trip to China. Mr Vetchy is alleged to have discussed an agreement on military co-operation, something which has the opposition up in arms. At a time when U.S.-Chinese relations have fallen to freezing point over the spy plane drama, one of Washington's NATO allies is meeting officials in Peking to discuss military co-operation. The opposition chairman of the Senate's Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee, Michal Zantovsky, has said he will demand an explanation from the Prime Minister. Daniela Lazarova asked him earlier what was wrong with Mr Vetchy's trip to China.

Vladimir Vetchy
Michal Zantovsky: I have not been critical of Minister Vetchy's trip to China. I have been critical of his stated intention to conclude a military co-operation agreement with China which would also include deliveries of Czech defence material to China and I believe that such plans should have been discussed beforehand with Parliament and other responsible people in this country and also with our allies because China is a major country and any plans for military co-operation with it will have international repercussions.

Radio Prague: You are a former ambassador to the US. Do you think that this government's foreign policy is damaging Czech-American relations?

MZ: Well, I believe that some of the steps that the Czech foreign ministry and the Czech defence ministry have taken lately may have created some uncertainty about our intentions and consequently done some damage to Czech American relations.

RP: On the other hand you would support a fairly independent foreign policy course, would you not?

MZ: Obviously yes, I do .It's just that we have certain priorities in foreign policy, and we have certain obligations as members of NATO and any plans that we make ought to be discussed with our allies and also domestically so that we know what our plans really are. It is the confusion, the uncertainty and the secrecy that are doing us damage.

RP: Will you be demanding the defence minister's resignation?

MZ: Not necessarily. That is up to the Prime Minister. We will, first and foremost, demand a clarification of the issues - what really happened and what the minister's mandate was. After we get that information we may ask for some more steps to be taken, but it is premature to talk about that now.