Bush Skirts Military Questions; Cites Relations with China as Complex but 'Good'

Article excerpt


President Bush yesterday said the United States has "difficulties" with China over trade, religious freedom and intellectual property rights, but he declined to discuss military tensions.

"It's a good relationship, but it's a complex relationship," Mr. Bush said during an East Room press conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

The president sidestepped a reporter's question about whether he views China as an "emerging military challenge," especially in the wake of a Chinese general's threat last week that his country is prepared to launch nuclear attacks against the United States if it intervenes on behalf of Taiwan.

"The Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds ... of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese," Gen. Zhu Chenghu said.

Chinese officials later said he was expressing his personal opinion, not government policy.

Although Mr. Bush declined to respond to those remarks, Mr. Howard earlier called them "unhelpful" and "irresponsible." Yesterday, Mr. Howard added that Taiwan is a critical issue in U.S.-China relations.

"The leadership of both countries understands the importance of common sense in relation to Taiwan, a recognition that there are differences of philosophy between the two societies," he said.

Mr. Bush, while steering clear of the topic of a possible Chinese military threat, bemoaned other tensions between Beijing and Washington.

"We have some difficulties on the trade front with China," he said. "A second difficulty is on intellectual property rights. …