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U.S. Diplomat Reassures Chinese

October 27, 1999

BEIJING (AP) _ A senior U.S. diplomat sought to ease Chinese fears about the United States’ plans for a sophisticated anti-missile system on Wednesday, saying it would only be used to defend American troops.

Speaking to China’s leading training school for diplomats in Beijing, U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering said no decision has been made to deploy the so-called theater missile defense ``except where it is necessary to protect U.S. forces.″

China has repeatedly raised concerns about the regional anti-missile shield being researched with Japan, saying it could spark a new arms race. It has also warned against installing the system in Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province.

Pickering arrived in Beijing on Wednesday for talks intended to smooth ties frayed by the NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia during the war over Kosovo.

Without referring directly to the bombing, Pickering noted that ``this year, as in many years, we have seen a cycle of ups and downs″ in U.S.-China ties.

One persistent source of tension is human rights. In his speech to the Foreign Affairs College, Pickering said, ``Americans are deeply concerned about continuing detentions and arrests of members of religious, social and political organizations.″

In recent months, China has banned the popular Falun Gong spiritual movement adhered to by millions of ordinary Chinese. It also has cracked down on a fledgling pro-democracy party, rounding up its leaders and putting many on trial or in jail.

Pickering was to meet Thursday with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

U.S. Embassy officials billed the talks as an overview of relations, the third in a series of meetings Pickering and Yang have held over the past 18 months.

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