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U.S. and Chinese generals sip corn liquor, talk of peace

January 15, 1985

PEKING (AP) _ America’s top general, John W. Vessey Jr., offered a corn-liquor toast to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army on Monday and said military ties between China and the United States threaten no third party.

″Progress in developing relations between our two countries’ armed forces has been steady, and in concert with our common goal of strengthening peace,″ Gen. Vessey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a banquet he gave for China’s ranking military officers.

″It is important for all to know that our ties are designed to promote peace and understanding, and threaten no third party,″ he added.

Gen. Yang Dezhi, chief of general staff of the Chinese army, appeared amused by the visitor’s tactic in bringing his own liquor instead of offering the fiery Chinese maotai usually served on such occasions.

Yang’s eyes watered after a sip of the Missouri liquor, served in small porcelain cups.

Earlier, on his third day in China, Vessey met with Premier Zhao Ziyang. He is the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to visit China since the communists defeated the Nationalist Chinese in 1949 and sent them fleeing to Taiwan.

The official Xinhua news agency quoted Zhao as telling Vessey that he hoped there would be ″practical measures during President Ronald Reagan’s second term of office″ to improve bilateral relations.

It said he urged further implementation of a 1982 agreement on reducing U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, which totaled $760 million last year.

Xinhua quoted Vessey as saying U.S. leaders had told him in Washington that America would follow the spirit of its joint communiques with China, and relations would continue to grow.

Vessey’s aides said the general had canceled a news briefing scheduled for Monday. It was believed the action may have been taken because of reports in the U.S. news media about a tentative agreement for America to sell anti- submarine torpedos, sonar equipment, anti-missile defenses and gas turbine engines to the Chinese navy.

The general’s aides declined comment on those reports.

On Taiwan, newspapers said the Nationalist government has cautioned the United States against weapons sales to China, saying they could jeopardize peace in Asia.

They quoted an unidentified Foreign Ministry source as saying Washington should first evaluate China’s existing military power before agreeing to any such sales.

The United States is Taiwan’s key weapons supplier, but sales have been restricted under Sino-U.S. agreements negotiated after the United States switched its diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China in 1979.

At Monday’s banquet, Vessey announced that Yang, a 74-year-old general who led Chinese troops in the fight against U.S. forces during the Korean War, has accepted an invitation to pay his first visit to the United States, probably later this year.

The banquet was held in the Fangshan restaurant in Beihai Park, where chefs prepare dishes that were favored by the Empress Dowager Cixi in the 19th century.

″Once in a while it’s good for ordinary soldiers to eat what emperors eat -- but not often,″ Vessey, 63, told the Chinese.

He said corn liquor was ″our version of maotai″ and offered a toast ″from the men and women of the U.S. armed forces to the men and women of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.″

Vessey and his delegation will observe military training exercises in the northeast city of Shenyang on Tuesday and then visit air force and naval units in Hangzhou, Shanghai and Canton before leaving on Saturday.

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