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Biden, Jiang Disagree on China Spreading Weapons Technology - 2001-08-08

The head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says talks with China's president brought disagreements over allegations Beijing is spreading weapons technology. But Senator Jospeh Biden says the two sides each learned some lessons and will work to resolve their differences.

Senator Biden says he and other members of the bipartisan delegation raised U.S. concerns that China is breaking a promise not to share missile technology with other nations. He says he made it clear the spread of missiles that can carry nuclear weapons deeply worries Washington, making it more likely the United States will build a missile defense system that China hates. "The more China was viewed by us to be proliferating technology," Mr. Biden said, "the more it increased the prospect that the United States would feel justified in building a national missile defense system."

China says proposed U.S. missile defenses would render its modest stock of nuclear weapons useless, spark an arms race, and threaten peace.

The senators, including Arlen Specter, Fred Thompson, and Paul Sarbanes, met with President Jiang at a seaside resort east of Beijing. They say he denied that Beijing has broken a promise not to share missile know-how with other nations. "We disagreed on whether or not China has kept its commitment not to transfer any, any material, which would in any way aid a country in their pursuit of ballistic missile capability," Senator Biden said. "And he was very formal in saying China has kept the letter of all its agreements. And we agreed to disagree on that point."

The senators said the talks also covered China's crackdown on the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, the detention of U.S. based scholars, and the future of Taiwan.

Senator Biden said the discussions made China aware of how profoundly important the missile proliferation issue is to Washington, but also taught him how emotional and important the status of Taiwan is to Beijing.

China and Taiwan split politically half a century ago when China's Communists won a civil war and defeated Nationalist forces retreated to the island off the coast. Washington is pledged to help defend the island from China, something Beijing calls outrageous interference in its internal affairs.