China Refuses to Give Ground Clinton Calls Rights Issues a Barrier
Jon Sawyer Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau Chief, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
President Bill Clinton spelled out U.S. concerns about China's record on human rights, trade barriers and weapons proliferation but came away with no commitments from his meeting Friday with Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
The meeting, which lasted for one hour and 30 minutes, was the first between U.S. and Chinese heads of government since before June 1989, when the Chinese government cracked down on democracy supporters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
Clinton said after the meeting that he had been "quite specific," laying out U.S. expectations that China would release political prisoners, open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama on the Chinese occupation of Tibet and begin negotiations on its treatment of goods produced by prison labor.
Clinton said he had assured Jiang that he was "not implying that the United States could dictate to China." But he said he wanted to make clear that "there are human rights issues that are a barrier to full resolution of normal and complete constructive relations between our two nations."
Clinton's rebuff from Jiang followed a separate meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa on efforts to redress the U.S.-Japan trade imbalance. That meeting also produced no breakthroughs, but Hosokawa agreed to a Feb. 11 deadline for progress on the trade "framework" talks aimed at opening up the Japanese market for telecommunications equipment, automobiles and parts and insurance trade.
Clinton fared better on the broader issue of world trade, winning commitment from the 17 Pacific Rim members of the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation group meeting in Seattle for "urgent action" to resolve the stalled worldwide talks on liberalizing trade rules for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
The president continues his discussions with the other APEC leaders at an informal meeting today on Blake Island, a historic site in Puget Sound off Seattle. The APEC members together represent economies that account for about half the world's economic output and 40 percent of its total trade.
Administration officials defended their decisions, also announced this week, to sell China a high-tech, $8 million supercomputer and turbine generators for a nuclear power plant. Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher said the sales were not prohibited by any U.S. laws or regulations and that they were an important offset to a U.S. trade deficit with China that is currently more than $20 billion a year.
The Cray supercomputer being sold to China will be used to predict weather, Christopher said, and "we will safeguard very carefully to make sure it's not used in other ways. . . . If we are going to correct a $20 billion trade deficit, we're going to have to sell goods that are not in any way prohibited by our laws and regulations."
Christopher also said he and Clinton had both stressed, in their meetings with the Chinese, the need for steady progress in the coming months in addressing human rights concerns. …