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Ashcroft Praises US-China Anti-Terrorism Partnership - 2002-10-24

The top U.S. law enforcement officer says China and the United States have strengthened their joint efforts to stop terrorists and catch criminals. The comments came from Attorney General John Ashcroft as he formally opened a Federal Bureau of Investigation office in Beijing.

Attorney General John Ashcroft says the new FBI office in China is evidence of an improved relationship between Washington and Beijing. "The partnership that we have that fights terrorism that seeks to disrupt organized crime, that seeks to bring international and transnational criminals to justice, I hope that this partnership can prosper," Mr. Ashcroft said.

China's Foreign Ministry agrees the new partnership is a "positive step" in U.S. Chinese relations.

Spokesman Liu Jianchao says China might set up a similar office in the United States in the future.

Attorney General Ashcroft says lessons learned from counter-terrorism will be a model for expanding joint efforts to fight drugs, money laundering and other crimes.

Mr. Ashcroft held meetings with China's top legal officials and thanked them for help in the U.S. led war on terrorism.

He said the deadly September 11 terror attacks on the United States showed Washington the urgent need for international cooperation to prevent such disasters in the future.

At China's request, Washington recently gave the terrorist designation to a Muslim separatist group known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, or ETIM, in China's Xinjiang region. China says the group uses violence to fight for an independent Islamic state. Critics say China is using the fight against terror as an excuse to crack down on the Uigher ethnic minority.

Mr. Ashcroft rejected assertions that the U.S. decision to put ETIM on its terrorist list was part of a trade-off to get China to support U.S. policies to force Iraq to give up weapons of mass destruction. He said such decisions are made on evidence and not politics.