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Archive for Thursday, February 21, 2002

Cooperation in war on terrorism brings Washington, Beijing closer, president says

February 21, 2002

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— President Bush, saying China also is threatened by terrorism, encouraged Chinese President Jiang Zemin to oppose the spread of missiles and other deadly weapons and make China "a force for peace among its neighbors" in Asia.

Both leaders emerged from their talks here stressing that while they continue to disagree on certain issues, they are confident their cooperation in fighting terrorism since Sept. 11 will lead to warmer relations overall.

"It is natural for China and the United States to disagree on some issues," Jiang said. "As long as the two sides act in a spirit of mutual respect, equality and seeking common ground, ... we will be able to gradually narrow our differences."

Bush and Jiang spoke after sharing lunch at a horseshoe-shaped cherrywood table in a Cabinet room in China's Great Hall. Bush said they discussed energy policy, cooperating on fighting the spread of AIDS and Bush's plans to develop a missile defense system.

Bush said he raised the missile defense issue, an idea China opposes, "in the broad context of protecting ourselves, and our friends and allies, against a launch by a threatening nation." He did not mention any such nation by name, and did not respond to a question on whether his missile shield would protect Taiwan, one of China's main reservations.

Bush said he and Jiang recognized that terrorism is a threat to both their nations and are keenly aware of their responsibilities in blocking weapons trafficking as a means of thwarting would-be terrorists. He said he hopes China will take on a more active role.

"I encourage China to be a force for peace among its neighbors," Bush said. "My government hopes that China will strongly oppose the proliferation of missiles and other deadly technologies."

Specifically, he said, Beijing can be valuable in pressuring North Korea to back away from developing destructive weapons. The United States also objects to Chinese weapons sales to Iran and Pakistan.

During their meetings in Beijing, the two leaders hoped to complete an agreement preventing the sale of missile and nuclear technology to nations such as Iran and Pakistan. Under the potential nuclear deal, China would meet U.S. demands to publish a list of items prohibited from export and enforce the ban if the administration agreed to lift sanctions barring U.S. companies from launching satellites on Chinese rockets.

It was clear that sticking points remained. Jiang stonewalled queries from two American reporters about his government's repression of religion  particularly the imprisonment of Catholic bishops  and his opinion of the Iraqi regime. He refused to answer either question, turning instead to questions from Chinese journalists.

Later, though, Jiang took up the issue. Bush listened intently as Jiang said those who were imprisoned were detained "because they broke the law, not because of their religious beliefs. I have no right interfering in judicial affairs."

On Iraq, Jiang said peace is "the important thing."

The Chinese leader shrugged off his earlier deflections, saying: "When it comes to meeting the press, I think President Bush is much more experienced."

Jiang greeted Bush inside the Great Hall of the People, on Tiananmen Square. A ceremonial contingent of 200 Chinese soldiers stood at attention with bayonet-tipped rifles raised as Bush and Jiang reviewed them, then went behind closed doors for their talks.

The meetings between Bush and Jiang were unlikely to be contentious, in part because of their new alliance against terrorism. China has provided the United States intelligence and other help that has gone a long way toward muting differences, and Bush also was extending an invitation for Jiang to visit Washington next fall.

Bush's visit comes on the 30th anniversary of the groundbreaking trip by President Nixon  a milestone that ended a two-decade estrangement. While Nixon opened the door to China, Bush hopes to use the war on terrorism to develop a mature relationship in which differences can be resolved amicably.

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