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Bush-Jiang Summit May Focus on Iraq, N. Korea Nuclear Issues - 2002-10-22

When President Bush welcomes Chinese President Jiang Zemin to his Texas ranch for talks on Friday, October 25, he will likely ask the Chinese leader for his help in stopping Iraq and North Korea from developing nuclear arsenals.

What was going to be a low-key luncheon at President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, has now taken on more significance - with Iraq and North Korea leading the agenda.

China analysts in the United States agree the recent revelation that North Korea has a secret nuclear weapons program adds a new complication to the meeting between President Bush and President Jiang. North Korea and China have had a long close relationship as two communist countries in Northeast Asia, and the United States hopes Beijing can use its influence in Pyongyang.

"With respect to North Korea, China's in a position to really have some effect," said Larry Wortzel, director of Asian Studies at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. "China supplies a lot of North Korea's fuel needs. And that's what this is about. So they could apply a great deal of pressure simply by shutting down or reducing the spigot on North Korea's fuel."

In addition to China helping North Korea with its energy needs, the United States has also been supplying North Korea with 500,000 tons of oil a year under a 1994 agreement. As part of that accord, North Korea had pledged to end its nuclear weapons program. Mr. Wortzel says the North Korea issue will be even more important after the Crawford summit, when Mr. Bush and Mr. Jiang go to Mexico for the APEC meeting of Asia and Pacific leaders, including presidents and prime ministers from South Korea, and Japan. He says that's where some real decisions about North Korea are likely to be made.

Regarding Washington's desire for international support against Iraq, some analysts say China has recently been more accomodating. Because China is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, Washington hopes China will not exercise its veto on the Iraq resolution.

A specialist on Chinese politics at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, Cheng Li, says he expects President Jiang to reassure President Bush on this issue. "He will continue to express his goodwill and support to the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism. And probably he will be also very accomodating in terms of Iraq. I don't think China will use a veto and probably will support ... a U.S. and British-led campaign against Iraq," he said.

Chinese officials say they consider Iraq-related resolutions on the merits of the issue and not in relation to other issues. But some activists believe China may be accomodating on Iraq, because the United States agreed to list a radical Muslim Uighur group as a terrorist organization.

Uighurs are the largest of several ethnic Muslim groups in China's western Xinjiang region. There has been some unrest, including bombings, attributed to Uighurs who demand Xinjiang's independence from China. Beijing considers Uighur separatists to be terrorists.

At a recent Washington rally, the president of the Uighur American Association Alim Saytoff said China persecutes Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, political dissidents and social activists. Therefore, Mr. Saytoff says, Jiang Zemin should not be welcomed in the United States.

"Jiang Zemin to the Uighurs, Tibetans, the Chinese people, is like Saddam Hussein to the Iraqi people," he said. "Both are dictators and murderers who don't hestiate to use military force against their own people to continue their evil rule. If there has to be a regime change in Baghdad, there also should be a regime change in Beijing because the dictators in Beijing are not any better or any different from the dictators in Baghad, in Iraq."

Human Rights Watch has called on Jiang Zemin to use this week's summit as an opportunity to release all political prisoners. The group also calls on Mr. Bush to speak out about what it says is increasing repression against Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Carol Lee Hamrin, a China specialist at George Mason University, says President Bush is not going to gloss over American concerns about human rights violations just to get China's support on Iraq. "Obviously Iraq is a high priority, but that doesn't mean we don't talk about these other issues. And in particular, the Bush administration is under pressure to prove that they're not dropping all other considerations for this," Mr. Hamrin said.

Professor Hamrin says Mr. Jiang probably hopes his summit with President Bush will boost his domestic stature as China enters a period of transition. In November, the Communist Party convenes a major meeting which is expected to announce his retirement as party leader, and he is expected to step down as president next March.

Larry Wortzel agrees that for Jiang Zemin the summit has a symbolic importance - that he wants to be treated the same as Russia's Vladimir Putin when he visited the Bush ranch. But he says the Chinese leader will also likely raise concerns about U.S. support for Taiwan and request permission to launch U.S. satellites on Chinese rockets.

Mr. Wortzel says President Bush will make sure all the important issues of concern to Washington are raised, including human rights, trade, and non-proliferation. And he says the two leaders are likely to express their common desire to prevent a war on the Korean peninsula.