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US Won’t Link China Rights, WTO Bid

March 1, 1999

BEIJING (AP) _ Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Monday she deplores a Chinese crackdown on dissidents, but that the Clinton administration will not link progress on human rights to China’s efforts to join the World Trade Organization.

``We determined some time ago that it was not a good idea to link human rights and trade and that we actually make better progress with both when they are not linked,″ Albright said at a joint news conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan. ``So I will be raising human rights issues, but at the same time I will make clear we think that progress on WTO succession is important.″

Tang blamed recent criticism of China on ``a handful of anti-China elements″ in the United States and warned that confronting Beijing on the matter is considered an intrusion into the country’s internal affairs. And he suggested Beijing would be unhappy if the Clinton administration condemned China at an upcoming Geneva forum on human rights.

``We have always been opposed to politicizing the human rights question,″ Tang said. ``Practice has proved that confrontation cannot solve the problem. And, secondly, to backtrack in this regard will have no future.″

Albright did not address Tang’s contention that anti-China elements were disturbing the U.S.-China relationship, but she made clear human rights was a top U.S. concern.

``We have deplored the actions that have taken place recently,″ Albright said, referring to arrests, detentions and jailings of dissidents. ``And I will raise those issues with the prime minister. ... As President Clinton has said many times, it’s very important for China to get on the right side of history.″

Albright was in China partly to prepare the ground for Premier Zhu Rongji’s visit to the White House in April to see Clinton.

State Department spokesman James P. Rubin suggested that although Zhu’s primary concern is winning a WTO deal, progress also needs to be made on other matters.

``If he and the Chinese want their trip to be a success ..., it’s got to go beyond economic issues,″ Rubin said. ``The nature of the U.S.-China relationship is broader than simply a question of WTO.″

Rubin dismissed the idea, however, that differences over human rights, Taiwan, trade and new disputes over high technology have created a crisis in the U.S.-China relationship.

``We recognize there are a lot of events that are converging at this very moment, but we don’t see them as linked and we don’t see them as a crisis,″ he said. ``We see them as hurdles that we obviously will need to overcome.″

Albright was meeting Monday with Zhu, Vice Premier Qian Qichen and Tang. On Tuesday, she plans to see President Jiang Zemin before heading to Thailand, then Indonesia, during her weeklong trip.

In Beijing, Albright will make clear that human rights is among the top U.S. problems with China’s conduct, Rubin said. The State Department’s annual human rights report, issued Friday, condemned China for jailing dissidents for trying to form a democratic political party.

``Secretary Albright will do what she always does, and that is tell it like it is on the subject of human rights,″ Rubin said. ``There has been an unfortunate deplorable pattern of crackdowns on political dissent.″

In recent days, Chinese police have detained one activist, warned several others not to leave their homes and sentenced another to 1 1/2 years in jail.

Chinese dissidents canceled a meeting on human rights set to begin Monday because organizers were in detention and police prevented others from attending, said Zha Jianguo, a member of the banned China Democracy Party in Beijing.

In a crackdown that began last year, three leading members of the illegal opposition party were convicted of subversion and sentenced to prison terms of 11 to 13 years.

Still, the Clinton administration has not decided whether to sponsor a resolution condemning China at this spring’s U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

On another contentious subject, Albright will urge China to avoid increasing tensions with Taiwan, which it considers a renegade province, Rubin said.

A new Pentagon report estimates Beijing may have by 2005 the capability to launch effective air and missile strikes against the island. China already has more than 100 ballistic missiles pointed at Taiwan and has never renounced the use of force to regain the territory, although the Pentagon didn’t predict a Chinese attack.

China strongly objects to U.S. proposals to develop a missile defense system in the region, which Taiwan wants to use as protection.

Chinese officials also are upset at the Clinton administration’s rejection last week of an export license for a $450 million commercial communications satellite sale to China by Hughes Electronics because of its possible military value.

On trade, Albright said she is trying to engage in ``serious discussions″ about China joining the WTO. Rubin said she was looking for a clear signal from Chinese officials on ``whether they have newfound flexibility.″

Joining the WTO would give China low-tariff access to export markets and protect it from sanctions. The United States wants Beijing first to lower more of its tariffs on goods and get rid of other trade barriers so that it doesn’t have a big advantage. Last year, the U.S. trade deficit with China hit a record $57 billion.

One shared worry is North Korea’s missile development and the possibility that Pyongyang could resume a nuclear weapons program frozen since 1994 under an agreement negotiated by the Clinton administration but in danger of collapse.

Rubin suggested China should try to use its influence with North Korea to discourage missile development, which is causing worries throughout the region including on Taiwan and Japan and in South Korea _ all now seeking ways to protect themselves.

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