- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2001

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday he would embark on a visit to China next week, seeking to improve relations after a bumpy start during the Bush administration's first six months.
"I head to China confident that we can build a more stable, a more constructive relationship with the Chinese," he told reporters at the State Department.
But Mr. Powell said he would raise thorny issues, such as human rights and missile defenses, which have strained relations between Washington and the world's most populous nation.
"With proliferation and human rights and religious-freedom issues, we will be candid in our conversations as befits two nations who are on a path to even better, friendly relations than exist now," he said.
Mr. Powell will arrive in Beijing on July 28 as part of a five-nation swing through the region. The China stop will help prepare for a visit by President Bush later this year.
Mr. Powell said he was not concerned with China's efforts to modernize its military, but he urged it to proceed in a transparent manner.
"We encourage Chinese military leaders to talk to our military leaders, so we have a better understanding of the nature of that transformation, and it would be very useful if we had more transparency into what both sides are doing," Mr. Powell said, "and in that way have some confidence in the security relationship between the two of us."
During the presidential campaign last year, Mr. Bush criticized the Clinton administration's approach to Beijing as a "strategic partner" and said he viewed China instead as a "strategic competitor."
Asked about the distinction, Mr. Powell said he refuses to use either term.
Sino-U.S. relations have improved since China returned the American surveillance plane Beijing held after it made an emergency landing following an aerial collision with a Chinese fighter in April, and with the United States remaining neutral on Beijing's successful bid to host the 2008 Olympics.
U.S. officials are hopeful China will also release a number of imprisoned scholars with American citizenship or U.S. residency status.
Li Shaomin, a U.S. citizen based in Hong Kong, was convicted of spying last weekend and ordered expelled.
The trial of Gao Zhan, an American University sociologist held by Beijing since February, is reportedly scheduled for Tuesday.
Mr. Powell spoke in advance of his first trip to Asia as secretary of state. He departs tomorrow, and in addition to China, he will visit Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Australia.
A retired Army general who chaired the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the administration of President George Bush, Mr. Powell served in Vietnam as a young captain.
Returning to Vietnam 32 years later will have an "emotional tinge," he said, but added that "there are no ghosts within me that need exorcism."
The top U.S. diplomat will take part in a meeting of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Hanoi on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"I will express our strong backing of ASEAN and its efforts to advance integration and economic openness in an area long rent by strife and conflict," he said.
Mr. Powell has no scheduled meetings with North Korean officials in Hanoi, but, said that because "we will be in a conference room together, I can't say what conversations might transpire."
The Bush administration has expressed willingness to resume negotiations with Pyongyang after a policy review was completed earlier this year, but, except for a few low-level meetings with North Korean delegates to the United Nations in New York, there have been no significant developments.
In addition to the situation on the Korean Peninsula, during his trip to Japan Mr. Powell will discuss Mr. Bush's plan for missile defense.
He said his impression from his meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka in Rome earlier this week is that Tokyo "has an open mind, wants to hear more about it, wants to be part of the consultative process, and they certainly will be."
"The program is not yet developed to the point that I can say to you that there will be some form of collaboration or cooperation with the Japanese authorities, and the Japanese authorities would require some study of the constitution to see whether it is permitted or not.
"We are just not that far along, and we have not placed any demands yet on the Japanese that would cause them to have to go to the question," he said.

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