- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 31, 2001

From combined dispatches

The United States criticized China yesterday for editing out comments on Taiwan and human rights from an interview with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell aired Sunday on China's state-owned CCTV.

"We had a clear and explicit agreement with them, as we sometimes do with you and your colleagues here, to air something in its entirety, without edits," State Department spokesman Charles Hunter said. "They chose to renege on that agreement, and we think that was a counterproductive choice."

He said the United States strongly protests the decision to edit Mr. Powell's remarks, adding that the decision would not otherwise affect relations with Beijing.

"We know that the Chinese authorities' views on Taiwan and human rights differ from ours, but we believe the Chinese people are mature and sophisticated enough to hear both their own government's views and those of others who may disagree," Mr. Hunter said.

"We'll continue to convey to the Chinese government and the Chinese people our clear and unedited views of all the issues that arise in U.S.-Chinese relations."

In the deleted segments, Mr. Powell had pressed Beijing to respect human rights, freedom of religion and the rule of law, and repeated U.S. policy toward Taiwan.

Mr. Powell left for home yesterday after a one-day stop in Canberra, Australia, where the only blemish on generally upbeat talks came over the hosts' unhappiness over a U.S. decision to abandon efforts to bolster a 30-year ban on germ warfare.

Mr. Powell described discussions over the Biological Weapons Convention as "spirited."

"We disagree on that issue, and we both had the chance to explain our views," he told reporters. "The United States' view is not just that the protocol is not in our interest, we don't think it serves the job for the world. We don't believe the convention is verifiable."

Although Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer last week described the U.S. stand as an enormous setback, the tone of the discussions was congenial when he was face to face with his country's most important ally.

"No one is suggesting, and no one should suggest, that the United States is anything but vigilant and determined in its opposition to the proliferation and even the use of biological weapons," Mr. Downer said at the news conference.

This is the first time Australia's conservative government has opposed a decision by the Bush administration.

Australia is unambiguously backing the U.S. missile-defense shield project and also sides with Washington in rejecting the 1997 Kyoto pact on combating climate change.

But despite political friction at home over Canberra's support of the missile shield, attempts by peace activists to hold protests across the country fizzled.

Australia's close relationship with Washington, however, could turn more bumpy if Prime Minister John Howard's 5-year-old conservative government loses power in a year-end election to the Labor opposition, which opposes the missile shield and is a strong supporter of the Kyoto treaty.

The odds are stacked against the government securing a third term as it is lagging Labor by eight points in opinion polls.

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