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Bush Seeks China's Help With North Korea

Thursday, 21 February 2002 12:00 AM

"We want the Korean Peninsula to have peace and stability," Jiang said. He also encouraged the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea, to resume contacts with the United States. During their bilateral meetings Thursday, Bush said he asked Jiang to encourage the North Koreans to open a dialogue with South Korea and the U.S.

In an extraordinarily lively joint news conference with President Bush in the Great Hall, the 76-year-old Chinese leader said it had always been the Chinese position that differences between North and South Korea should be settled peacefully.

"All in all, in handling state-to-state relations, it is important to resolve the problems through peaceful means, in a spirit of equality and through consultation. And that's why I've explained our consistent and clear-cut position on the question of the Korean Peninsula. It's quite near."

China has been North Korea's major ally since 1950 when Chinese troops swept across the Yalu River and forced U.S. forces back to the 38th Parallel in the Korean War. It will be hard for North Korean strongman Kim Jang Il to resist full pressure from his Chinese benefactors.

Later, Jiang noted that Iraq is not as near as Korea. "But I think as I made clear in my discussion with President Bush, just now, the important thing is that peace is to be valued most."

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told reporters that President Bush reassured Jiang that he made no decision about military action on Iraq and that China would be fully informed as a member the United Nations Security Council. It is the U.S. that imposed the sanctions President Bush has asked Iraq to abide by.

Despite the agreement on Korea, the two leaders did not appear to make any progress on non-proliferation of weapons. In the past, the United States has accused China of supplying missile technology and support to Pakistan, Libya, Iran and North Korea. China has consistently denied selling any weapons that violate international law.

Rice said the sticking point is over China's unwillingness to pass effective export controls and reluctance to punish some Chinese companies that have violated weapons export agreements. The U.S. is refusing to lift sanctions against Chinese companies.

In a January report to Congress, the CIA said as of the middle of 2001, China provided missile technology and support to Pakistan, Libya, Iran and North Korea, including computers and other support. It has also sold advance conventional weapons to Pakistan, including F-7 fighter aircraft.

Meanwhile, Bush said that Jiang has agreed to visit the United States next October in conjunction with his attendance at the Asian Pacific Economic Conference and that Vice President Hu Jintao would be visiting the U.S. shortly.

Perhaps the most compelling exchange of the 37-minute news conference came when Jiang appeared to override a foreign ministry official and answer questions posed by two American reporters.

One reporter, Terry Moran, of the American Broadcasting Co. (ABC), asked Jiang to explain to Americans "why your government restricts the practice of religious faith, in particular, why your government has imprisoned more than 50 bishops of the Roman Catholic Church."

At first Jiang appeared to ignore the reporter and a foreign ministry official called on a Chinese reporter for a second question. Later Bob Deans of Cox News Service asked the Chinese president to answer the question on religion.

Laughing and saying partly in English, "President Bush has much more experience than I when it comes to meeting the press," Jiang gave the following answer on religion:

"In the first question, the correspondent mentioned that some Catholic Church people have been detained.

"I want to explain that since the founding of the People's Republic of China, all our constitutions, various versions, have provided for the freedom of religious belief. In China there are many religions that include Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and a typical Chinese religion, Taoism. And their religious faiths are protected by our Constitution.

"I don't have religious faith. Yet this does not prevent me from having an interest in religion," Jiang said. He added that he had read the Koran and the Bible and once a year meets with different religious groups.

"Whatever religion people believe in, they have to abide by the law. So some lawbreakers have been detained because of their violation of the law, not because of their religious belief. Although I am the president of this country, I have no right interfering in the judicial affairs, because of judicial independence."

Both presidents remarked on how well the relationship had flowered since President Nixon opened relations with the world's largest communist country, 30 years ago.

Bush arrived at Beijing Capital Airport shortly after 10 a.m. local time and went almost immediately into bilateral meetings with Jiang. Rice said Bush urged Jiang to meet both with the Vatican and Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama about issues of religious freedom. He said he would also talk about the Dalai Lama, "as well as Christian faiths."

The Chinese are wary of U.S. military operations in the Far East and its strong rhetoric about dissidents. The State Department last week filed a protest on behalf of 37 Americans who are having difficulties or are being detained by the Chinese.

For his part, Jiang will undoubtedly raise Bush's plan to build a missile defense system.

The president's visit to Beijing is the shortest of any of the three capitals he has traveled to on his Asian venture. He had a formal dinner with Jiang Thursday evening and on Friday visits the Great Wall as did Nixon and succeeding presidents. He returns to Washington on Friday.

In the past week of meetings and public addresses, Bush formalized the shift of U.S. attention to Asia, dubbing the 21st Century, the "Pacific Century" in an address in Tokyo and turning his "axis of evil" remark into a plea to end what the South Korean president called the last vestige of the Cold War -- the military confrontation along the 38th Parallel.

On Wednesday, Bush went to the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean Peninsula calling on North Korea to end the confrontation that has split the peninsula for 49 years.

Bush and his administration have stressed that in addition to North Korea perpetuating the standoff at the DMZ, Pyongyang has developed a major arsenal of ballistic missiles and sells this technology around the world. The Bush administration has also accused North Korea of trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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We want the Korean Peninsula to have peace and stability, Jiang said. He also encouraged the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea, to resume contacts with the United States. During their bilateral meetings Thursday, Bush said he asked...
Thursday, 21 February 2002 12:00 AM
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