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US-China Relations Cool Over 'Offensive Actions' - 2002-03-28

China's official media say "Beijing feels betrayed" by a series of what they call offensive actions of the United States. Canceled visits by war ships are being used to send a blunt diplomatic message to Washington.

The latest sign of cooling Sino-American relations came Thursday in China's government-controlled press with headlines reading "Sino-U.S. ties hit troubled water." It is a reference to Beijing's refusal to allow a U.S. Navy destroyer to make a port call in Hong Kong. Such visits are considered routine.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhang Qiyue is hinting that a proposed visit by a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, may also be in jeopardy.

Ms. Zhang said China will consider visits from foreign ships on a "case by case" basis, and adds Chinese ships will skip visits to U.S. ports later this year.

American Navy ships have made dozens of port calls in Hong Kong since the former British Colony returned to Chinese control in 1997. But those visits were suspended during tense periods after the U.S. mistakenly bombed the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia in 1999, and last year after Chinese and U.S. military planes collided.

Just a few weeks ago, China hosted President Bush for the second time in less than a year, and both sides said ties were warm and getting better.

But the atmosphere changed dramatically when Washington revealed a review of its nuclear weapons policy might see China targeted with atomic weapons in some possible future conflict over Taiwan.

China was also angered when the United States allowed Taiwan's Defense Minister to travel to a "private" meeting in the U.S. State of Florida where some American defense contractors and high ranking U.S. defense officials were present.

Furious Chinese officials said the visit, "touched a most sensitive Chinese nerve." China and Taiwan split during civil war in 1949, and Beijing considers the island a renegade province that should be returned to central government control, by force if necessary. Reuniting Taiwan with the mainland is China's most important political goal.

Washington is pledged to help defend Taiwan against unprovoked attack, and sells the island enough weapons to defend it self.

China says the defense minister's visit and the continued weapons sales break American agreements with China.