China is again calling for a political solution to the situation in Iraq, as President Bush appears nearing congressional approval for military action. China is one of three key U.N. Security Council member countries which have yet to support any use of force if Iraq fails to allow a resumption of unhindered weapons inspections.
The Chinese foreign ministry says weapons inspections, not military attacks, are the best way to make sure Iraq does not build up its arsenal of chemical, nuclear and biological weapons.
The foreign ministry issued a statement Thursday here in Beijing, saying the main task at hand for the U.N. Security Council is getting U.N. weapons inspectors back into Iraq as soon as possible and allowing them to work smoothly and without interference.
China's official media have generally called for a non-military response to the situation in Iraq. But some editorials have hinted that China is getting tired of Baghdad's intransigence on the issue.
Last week, an editorial in the official China Daily newspaper said that, although Iraq deserved to be treated fairly, it had, "earned its current legal obligations to live under international scrutiny through its past aggression."
Earlier this week, Chinese officials met with a British envoy seeking support for a new U.N. resolution ordering Iraq to disarm or face military action. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guang Ya told the British envoy China will keep working towards a political remedy.
The United States, backed by Great Britain, is drafting the resolution. But Washington and London have yet to persuade China, Russia and France, the three other permanent U.N. Security Council members who hold veto power.
The chief U.N. arms inspector, Hans Blix, met with Iraq officials this week in Vienna and announced that Baghdad had agreed to inspections under 1998 rules that bar surprise inspections at presidential compounds.
But the Bush administration says that is no longer good enough. The U.S. State Department spokesman says access to the compounds are critical since these huge facilities have been used in the past to hide evidence of Iraq's weapons program. Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji has expressed support for another proposal by France. That resolution would delay U.N. approval of military action until it became clear that U.N. inspectors were not getting the access they needed to do their job.