China Says United States has Agreed to Limit Taiwan Visits
BEIJING (AP) _ China said today the United States has agreed to tough restrictions on visits by Taiwan’s leaders that bar them from making political speeches. However, the White House denied Beijing’s claim.
``We did not″ place restrictions, presidential spokesman Mike McCurry said. ``To limit a person’s freedom of speech is contrary to American values.″
McCurry also said that President Clinton likely will meet with President Jiang Zemin of China in New York later this month when the two leaders attend ceremonies at the United Nations.
Clinton originally invited Zemin to Washington for an official working visit; China balked at that, holding out for a full-blown state visit, an honor that Clinton has reserved for America’s warmest allies.
``We don’t believe that our bilateral relationship (with China) at the moment is at a sufficient state of progress to warrant a state visit,″ McCurry said.
Foreign Minister Qian Qichen said that if the White House lacks the ``political will″ to invite Jiang for a state visit, China would accept a meeting in New York.
Chinese-U.S. relations have been on the mend in recent weeks after plummeting in May, when Washington agreed to let Taiwan’s president, Lee Teng-hui, attend a reunion at Cornell University. China considers Taiwan a renegade province.
While the supposed new restrictions on contacts with Taiwan do not fully satisfy China, Foreign Minister Qian Qichen said they represent progress. Qian was quoted by Chinese news organizations whose reporters interviewed him Saturday in New York.
Chinese-U.S. relations have been at a low since Lee’s visit. Other problems have included China’s detention of Chinese-American human rights activist Harry Wu, as well as U.S. distaste for China’s weapons proliferation and human rights abuses. Beijing also objects to Clinton’s recent meeting with the Dalai Lama, claiming it implied support for Tibetan independence.
The official Xinhua News Agency quoted Qian as saying U.S. officials pledged to restrict visits by Taiwan’s officials during a meeting last week between Qian and Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
``They said, from now on, this sort of thing is completely personal, very few in number, exceptional and will be dealt with case by case,″ Xinhua paraphrased Qian as saying.
``Visits will be entirely for personal reasons, such as receiving medical treatment, and cannot include making political speeches,″ it said.
The United States did not confirm having made the promises. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said before the Qian-Christopher meeting that the United States would not agree to ban visits by Taiwan leaders.
``We’ll decide how we issue American visas. We’re not going to issue any kind of pledges,″ Burns said on Sept. 19.
When the United States normalized relations with China in 1979, it recognized Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan. Taiwan has been governed since 1949 by Nationalist Chinese who were defeated by the Communists on the mainland.