Clinton, Zhu exchange views
April 8, 1999
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 8) -- President Bill Clinton and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji announced more agreements on trade relations but acknowledged differences remain on contentious issues like human rights that have strained U.S.-China relations.
Clinton said he hoped China would give its citizens more freedom and he hoped its leaders would see that the "benefits of change outweigh the risks."
"It is troubling that in the past year China has taken some steps backward on human rights and arrested people" for expressing their views, Clinton said in an opening statement at a joint news conference Thursday.
Zhu noted that China had made progress in human rights but said there is room for improvement.
"We are willing to listen to you and we are willing to have channels of dialogue on the human rights question. We don't t want to stage a confrontation in this regard," he said.
The agenda for Zhu's visit has included topics like trade, Taiwan, human rights, the allegations of Chinese spying at a U.S. nuclear lab in New Mexico and allegations that the chief of Chinese military intelligence funneled $300,000 to Clinton's re-election campaign in 1996.
Questioned about allegations of Chinese spying of U.S. nuclear secrets, Zhu said he had no knowledge of espionage and said the U.S. should not "underestimate the ability of the Chinese people to develop their own technology."
"It is not the policy of China to steal so-called military secrets from the United States," he said.
Zhu also said he knew nothing about the allegations that China illegally funneled money into Clinton's re-election campaign and promised that China would cooperate with U.S. investigations "so long as you can provide some clues."
But both Zhu and Clinton emphasized the positive aspects of the U.S.-China relationship.
"We believe that maybe the friends that are maybe able to say 'No' to you are the best friends for you," Zhu said.
Clinton reiterated the benefits his policy of engagement, including the lessening of tensions on the Korean peninsula, China's decision to stop selling weapons-related nuclear materials to Pakistan and Iran, and China's efforts to mitigate the effects of the recent Asian economic crisis.
Earlier at the White House, Clinton welcomed Zhu to the United States, noting the countries' long relationship but also acknowledging the differences that exist between the two countries.
"I am very grateful for the opportunity it gives to both of us to address our potential and our differences in an honest, open realistic manner," Clinton said during the morning White House ceremony.
Zhu said good relations are needed between the U.S., which has the world's most powerful economy, and China, with the world's largest potential market.
"Our two countries might have some disagreements or differences but I think (the) only friends who can resolve and discuss their differences are good friends," Zhu said, through an interpreter.
Later on Thursday, in remarks at a State Department luncheon in his honor, Zhu said one of the purposes of his visit to the U.S. was to "cool some Americans down."
Zhu's remarks were filled with humor, but he did say that he had been "reluctant" to make the U.S. visit "with so many Americans angry at China." He was worried that under such circumstances, "they wouldn't listen."
Zhu's visit is the first by a Chinese premier in 15 years and comes at a time of great strain between the two countries. China has been under criticism from Republicans and others not only for the alleged spy and campaign finance activities but also for repressing dissent, refusing to renounce the use of force against Taiwan and keeping its market closed to many U.S. products.
For China, the main goal of the visit is admission to World Trade Organization (WTO). The two countries issued a joint statement detailing significant progress in trade negotiations to open up China to U.S. products, but they did not reach an immediate agreement on China's bid to enter the World Trade Organization.
Clinton said both sides had made "significant progress" in clearing away the barriers to China's entry into the WTO but "we are not there yet."
He said both countries would pledge in a joint communique to resolve all the remaining issues in time for China to be included in the start of a new round of global trade talks in late November.
Clinton did announce agreement on one of America's major objectives in the meetings with Zhu, a separate deal in which China agreed to remove barriers to the sale of American beef, wheat and citrus.
But U.S. officials say it would also cite remaining areas of disagreement, including banking and financial services, textiles and so-called "dumping provisions" regulating penalties for improper trade practices.
China also agreed to a new aviation pact with the United States Thursday in the latest move designed to ease China's entry to the WTO. The two sides sealed the agreement after almost two years of talks that seemed locked in stalemate. The airline deal follows trade agreements in the past week covering telecom and agricultural products.
Labor unions, human rights activists and environmental groups are among the generally Democratic constituencies pressuring the White House on the issues involving China. Many Republicans also oppose China's entry into the WTO, on grounds stemming from concerns about its trade practices to criticism of its alleged role in nuclear espionage at U.S. energy and weapons labs.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) expressed strong opposition Wednesday to U.S. efforts to facilitate China's entry into the WTO. China's membership in the Geneva-based WTO would do nothing to end China's "predatory trade practices," Lott said.
Another Republican, presidential hopeful Gary Bauer, joined leading Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng at a news conference to condemn Clinton's China policy. Bauer said the administration's "scandalous policy" that "puts human rights, America's national security and religious liberty and other issues in the back of the bus and elevates trade and the almighty dollar."
Wei, speaking from Geneva, said China wants WTO membership as a way to reduce any economic leverage the U. S. has in seeking human rights reforms.
Several hundred people also gathered at Lafayette Park Thursday across the street from the White House to protest Zhu 's visit. The rally, sponsored by International Campaign for Tibet and Amnesty International, focused on freeing Tibet from what the groups say is Chinese occupation and on human rights abuses in China and Taiwan.
Members of the Free China Movement also carried around a coffin with "the death of human rights in China" written on the side to mark the 10th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square.
The president and Zhu met informally for nearly three hours Wednesday night in the White House residence, with National Security adviser Sandy Berger and National Economic Council chief Gene Sperling joining the president for the discussions. Sources described it as a "cordial, mostly social setting," but said the two leaders also touched on a wide range of substantive issues.
Zhu will continue those talks with Clinton and other administration officials Thursday before a dinner the president will host in his honor tonight. For his part, Zhu is expected to voice his government's vigorous objections to the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
Adding tension to the visit are the allegations of Chinese nuclear spying on the United States and newly published reports that the chief of China's military intelligence directed $300,000 to Clinton's re-election campaign in 1996.
Administration briefers declined comment on the two latter issues Wednesday on grounds that they were under investigation.
Zhu, known for his sense of humor, joked about the allegations that China stole nuclear secrets from the Los Alamos research lab in the 1980s.
He said in Los Angeles on Tuesday that China plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of communist rule this year by parading weapons "developed by China itself, not by technology stolen from the United States."
The U.S. also plans to ask China to help account for the whereabouts of several U.S. servicemen missing from the Korean War, including two pilots that were apparently shot down over Manchuria on a covert CIA mission in November 1952, according to internal Pentagon records.
The administration also has requested information on three missing corporals -- Roger Dumas, William Glasser and Richard Desautels -- who were held in a Chinese-run POW camp in North Korea. Several repatriated American prisoners reported seeing the three alive and well at the close of the war in 1953.
The Pentagon have been pressing the Chinese government for more than a year to open its wartime records, but with little result. The People's Liberation Army has insisted that war losses are a closed issue, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has declared wartime records to be classified.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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