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Powell says China seeks stronger ties and to avoid tension over Taiwan

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday that China, eager for strong U.S. relations, wants to keep tensions over Taiwan at a minimum and also to avoid a repeat of the April 1 spy plane incident.

Arriving in the Australian capital after talks with Chinese leaders in Beijing, Powell said China has cut back on aggressive pursuit tactics that led to the midair collision four months ago off the Chinese coast. The incident severely strained U.S. relations with China for months.

Powell said China’s conciliatory posture reflects the importance those leaders attach to close ties with Washington, primarily because of the crucial U.S. role in China’s economic development.



”They have every incentive to put it (the relationship) back on the right track with us,” he said, noting that 40 percent of China’s exports go to the United States.

Powell is on the last leg of a five-nation tour of Asia-Pacific countries that concludes Monday with talks on security issues. Joining him in Australia is Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.



While the two sides are supposed to hold annual discussions, there were no meetings in 2000, and Powell said it was doubly important that they take place this year. Australia has been a defense treaty ally for 50 years.

On Saturday, Powell met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and other top leaders. The two sides agreed to hold consultations on trade, human rights and China’s exports of sensitive technology, among other issues.

On Taiwan, Powell summed up the attitude of China’s leaders by saying: ”Let’s not let this situation get out of control. Let’s talk to each other. Let’s consult and make sure everybody understands the volatility of the Taiwan issue.”

The secretary registered concern with the leaders over what he described as a Chinese military buildup across from Taiwan. He said Chinese officials denied any such activity.

The United States has a keen interest in Taiwan because a China-Taiwan conflict can lead to U.S. military involvement on Taiwan’s behalf.

In 1996, China fired missiles across the Taiwan Strait toward Taiwan, prompting the United States to send two aircraft carriers to the area.

In the April 1 incident, a Chinese fighter plane collided with a U.S. EP-3E surveillance plane off the China coast, forcing the American aircraft to make an emergency landing on China’s Hainan island. The Chinese pilot was killed.

In the months before the incident, Chinese jets repeatedly harassed the slower American reconnaissance planes, reflecting Chinese displeasure over the U.S. information gathering activities.

The United States has since resumed the reconnaissance flights and urged China to call off the pursuit tactics because they endangered young pilots from both countries, Powell said.

He said China apparently is paying heed to U.S. appeals. ”We haven’t seen anything like the kind of things we saw before,” Powell said, referring to the China’s pursuit of the U.S. planes.

The one issue still pending is reimbursement of China for services rendered during the three months the EP-3E plane was on Chinese soil. The Bush administration considers the $1 million bill presented by China to be excessive. Powell said he believes the issue will be resolved shortly.

He said in Beijing that military-to-military exchanges with China, suspended after the reconnaissance flight incident, may be resumed in a modified fashion.

Before leaving China, Powell was asked during an interview by Chinese Central Television whether it was appropriate for the United States to lecture China on human rights and other issues.

Powell replied, according to an official transcript, that there are international standards which, if China adhered to them, would benefit the nation.

”We point fingers at ourselves,” Powell said. ”America is a country that has had its problems over the years with respect to human rights. I am a perfect example of it. As a black man 40 years ago, it would have been unthinkable for me to dream about becoming secretary of state but here I am.”

On the Net:

CIA background on China: http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ch.html

State Department background on China: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/bgn/index.cfm?docid2742


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