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US-China to Discuss Human Rights, Weapons Proliferation - 2001-07-28

Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States and China have agreed to hold new talks on human rights, weapons proliferation, and avoiding incidents between their militaries. He spoke after completing a day of talks with Chinese leaders in Beijing aimed at laying groundwork for President Bush's China visit in October.

Mr. Powell has said U.S.-Chinese relationship is on the upswing after their spy- plane confrontation and the release this week of three U.S. based scholars who had been prosecuted by China for spying for Taiwan.

And his day of talks here produced agreements to restore a bilateral dialogue on human rights, to hold expert level meetings on U.S. concerns about Chinese weapons-technology exports, and to convene a meeting next month of a joint commission designed to avoid military-to-military incidents like the April collision between a U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter.

At a news conference that followed his final meeting of the day, with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Mr. Powell said the human rights dialogue, broken off in 1999 after the mistaken U.S. bombing of China's embassy in Belgrade, will resume immediately, led on the American side by Assistant Secretary of State Lorne Craner.

Mr. Powell said human rights came up at every meeting he had here with Chinese officials, including President Jiang, and that he stressed China's overall adherence to internationally accepted rights standards as opposed to individual cases. "I was more interested in raising the whole issue of human rights and the rule of law and treating people properly," he said. "And that was done in every single meeting. And we had a candid exchange of views, that there are two different perspectives to this, two nations come at this from different historic perspectives and different traditions. And I made the case and the strong point that there is, never-the-less, a universality with respect to human rights that I think all nations should aspire to."

Mr. Powell said the two sides were able to narrow their differences over what U.S. officials believe have been Chinese violations of an agreement last November under which it committed not to sell missiles or related hardware to countries developing nuclear weapons. He said there will be expert level consultations to try to further narrow the gaps before President Bush's China visit in October.

The secretary also reiterated the administration's commitment to the "One-China" policy that has governed the U.S. approach to Beijing since diplomatic recognition was switched from Taiwan to the communist government in Beijing more than two decades ago.

He said U.S. sales of defensive weapons to Taiwan are aimed not at destabilizing the region but at giving Taiwan the confidence to negotiate its future relationship with China. He also said he raised Chinese missile deployments near Taiwan, and said they are a factor in U.S. arms sales decisions. "It was touched on in the context of: as we look at what Taiwan's defensive needs are, to some extent that is a reflection of what is facing Taiwan," he said. "To the extent that buildups take place, that starts to shift the balance and requires us to take a hard look when examining arms sales."

Mr. Powell said that in the same discussion, Chinese officials reiterated their denials of a missile buildup across the straits from Taiwan. He also said Chinese officials again raised their concerns about the Bush administration missile defense plans, and he said he told them the envisaged system is neither designed to, nor would it, threaten the nuclear deterrence of either China or Russia.

Mr. Powell flies to Canberra Sunday to complete a five nation Asian trip with meetings marking the 50th anniversary of the U.S.-Australian defense alliance.