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US Missile Talks in Beijing Termed Inconclusive - 2001-08-24

The State Department says a round of high-level talks in Beijing has not put to rest U.S. concerns about whether China is adhering to a pledge not to export missile technology.

China agreed to the round of non-proliferation talks last month as part of a series of steps aimed at improving the climate of the relationship in advance of President Bush's visit to China in October.

But officials here say the one-day set of meetings in Beijing Thursday ended with the U.S. side still in doubt about whether China is fully adhering to a pledge made last November not to help any country develop nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

In return for that pledge, the United States agreed to forego sanctions against Chinese companies for past missile cooperation with Iran and Pakistan, and to consider allowing China to launch U.S. commercial satellites.

At a briefing, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker called the meetings in China candid and detailed. And he made clear that the U.S. team, led by State Department non-proliferation expert Vann Van Diepen, came away with lingering questions about Chinese compliance with last year's agreement. "We have not yet been fully satisfied in our discussions about that," he said. "We need to have more discussions on the subject. We discussed a full range of issue related to implementation of the November 2000 agreement. We need additional work to clarify their willingness to implement it fully, the full terms of that."

The spokesman said he had no word on when the dialogue would continue.

When Secretary of State Colin Powell visited China last month, the two sides agreed to hold talks in several areas, also including trade and human rights, in an effort to repair relations after last April's spy-plane confrontation, and to smooth the way for President Bush's visit.

Mr. Powell said during his Asia trip that China's performance on non-proliferation issues was "mixed," and spokesman Reeker said the Thursday meetings provided nothing to alter that assessment.