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China Offers Cooperation Against Terrorism - 2001-09-13

China is offering to strengthen cooperation with the United States and the global community to combat terrorism. But it is still not clear what role Beijing would play in an anti-terrorist war, given its links with the Taleban in Afghanistan, suspected to be harboring terrorists.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhu Bangzao says it is urgent for China to enhance its dialogue and cooperation with the United States and the global community to fight all forms of terrorist violence. He said such cooperation should take place within the framework of the United Nations.

Mr. Zhu told reporters in Beijing that "in a phone call to President George Bush, Chinese President Jiang Zemin said that Tuesday's attacks in New York and Washington were not just a disaster for the American people, but also for everyone in the world who cherished peace". Zhu says "Mr. Jiang offered Mr. Bush his solemn condolences, as well help in American rescue efforts".

Mr. Zhu gave no details about how China would help in an anti-terrorist war, saying only that Beijing would stay in close contact with Washington, and have further consultations on the matter.

Yet Chinese ties with some countries viewed by Washington as sponsors of terrorism are likely to complicate its role in an anti-terrorist war. For example, Mr. Zhu was asked about China's attitude towards Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile who is a strong suspect in Tuesday's attacks and is being harbored in Taleban-ruled Afghanistan. Mr. Zhu replied that he does not know anything about Mr. Bin Laden, but that China condemns and opposes all terrorists.

Yet Mr. Zhu also said that China maintains its contacts with the Taleban, and that China and Afghanistan enjoy a long friendship. He added that China does not interfere in Afghanistan's internal affairs.

President Bush has said that in deciding on a military response, the United States would not distinguish between those who commit terrorism and those who harbor terrorists. Mr. Zhu declined to comment on Mr. Bush's statement.