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Asked to comment on U.S.-China relations after a speech Monday at Columbia University in New York, Ms. Power quipped: “Should I leave now?”

She then went on to say the administration sought to use the recent summit meeting between President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao to press China to improve its human rights record, by “using the fact of the summit to draw greater attention to the plight of political dissidents and ordinary Chinese who are unjustly incarcerated.”

There are no plans to cut off dialogues on security or economic issues to protest the crackdown, she said.

“I think what we’ve seen in the last few weeks is very, very disturbing,” Ms. Power said. “An already grim human rights situation has deteriorated as the Chinese government appears to be fearful of the Arab spring spreading”

“So we’re stepping up our diplomacy on human rights grounds and maintaining the security and economic and the other dialogues that are also critical for our national interests,” she said.

The comments followed an hourlong speech by Ms. Power that included how the Obama administration decided to use military force in Libya after diplomatic and other efforts could not stop attacks on civilians by Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s military.

“We obviously have a long way to go in the cause of human rights promotion and protection,” Ms. Power said during the speech. “But the president, Secretary [of State Hillary Rodham] Clinton and the rest of his Cabinet, I think, have charted a course that we are confident will over time help bend the famous arch of history toward justice.”

China’s communist government arrested dozens of prominent dissidents in recent weeks in an effort to stem what is being called a “Jasmine Revolution” by pro-democracy advocates seeking to replicate the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa.

Guantanamo terrorist probe

The chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee recently directed the panel’s investigations subcommittee to conduct a major probe of detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Chairman Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, California Republican, and ranking member Rep. Adam Smith, Washington Democrat, stated in a March 16 letter that they were concerned over detainee-handling policies.

“Detention policies are shaped by two central objectives: ensuring terrorists who may return to threaten our security are not released and those who remain at Guantanamo Bay are afforded a process that is both fair and considered credible by the international community,” they wrote to the chairman and ranking member of the subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

They called for an “in-depth, long-term, bipartisan” probe of detainee affairs, including Pentagon documents and records. The subcommittee, headed by Rep. Robert J. Wittman, Virginia Republican, should produce a report on the issue by Nov. 30.

Mr. Wittman said through a spokesman that he visited the prison in February and “identified numerous issues” that will be examined during hearings before his subcommittee.

“The primary focus of the evaluation is a retrospective look at recidivism and the impact on the battlefield,” he said.

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