- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2001

Chinese Vice Prime Minister Qian Chichen and Secretary of State Colin Powell agreed yesterday that China and the United States have disagreements but that their common interest in peace, stability and economic growth will dominate their differences.

In their brief, separate statements to reporters yesterday evening at the State Department, the two addressed the Chinese effort to persuade the Bush administration to turn down Taiwan's request for advanced Aegis destroyers.

"Undeniably we have disagreements, but as long as both sides … view the problems in the long-term perspective, see common ground and properly handle the differences, I am sure China-U.S. relations will enjoy a healthy and steady growth," said Mr. Qian, who is to meet with President Bush today at the White House.

Mr. Powell extended a warm greeting to Mr. Qian, recalling his first visit to China in 1972 as a young lieutenant colonel.

"I look forward to discussing with the vice premier ways to expand our ties that are constructive and that advance our countries' respective interests," Mr. Powell said.

He praised China's economic reforms and said that once China and then Taiwan join the World Trade Organization, "I hope it will expand cross-straits ties."

Mr. Powell referred indirectly to U.S. complaints that China has been threatening Taiwan and selling weapons, missiles and military or nuclear technology to Iraq, Iran and Pakistan.

Discussions with the Chinese official would focus on "stability in East Asia, South Asia, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East," Mr. Powell said.

"We recognize that we disagree," and need "candid talks" to deal with those disagreements, Mr. Powell said.

In New York Tuesday, Mr. Qian called differences over Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province, "the most important and sensitive issue in China-U.S. relations".

Mr. Bush must decide in April whether to sell Taiwan the destroyers equipped with advanced Aegis radar systems a sale supported on Capitol Hill by several key Republicans.

Analysts think that even though China has 1.3 billion people compared with 20 million on Taiwan Beijing's army cannot effectively cross the 90-mile-wide Taiwan Strait and maintain a beachhead in facing well-equipped and well-trained Taiwan forces, said Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project.

U.S. officials have remained intentionally vague about whether they would intervene to defend Taiwan if China attempted to invade.

The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 mandates only that the United States supply Taiwan with the means necessary to defend itself.

In 1996, when China sent missiles into the sea off Taiwan to protest what it saw as a drift toward independence, President Clinton moved two U.S. aircraft carriers nearby in a signal of support for Taiwan.

"We do expect differences on the role and the impact of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan," Mr. Boucher said at a news briefing Tuesday.

But he added, "We sell to Taiwan what we think is appropriate and necessary to meet their legitimate defensive needs.

"I think the secretary has made quite clear that we're not seeking an enemy and we're not seeking to turn China into a foe," Mr. Boucher said yesterday. "We're looking to cooperate where we can, but we'll discuss differences candidly."

Mr. Bush could sell the ships and risk Chinese ire, delay the sale to use as a threat against future Chinese aggression or turn down the Taiwan request and risk giving in to Chinese saber rattling, said Mr. Milhollin.

"None of the choices are very good," he said.

In addition to seeking to persuade the United States not to sell the destroyers to Taiwan, Mr. Qian is expected to oppose the deployment of a national missile defense or a theater missile defense.

Apart from weapons, Mr. Powell and Mr. Bush are expected to restate U.S. criticism over China's arrests of members of the Falun Gong movement. The State Department last month reported that the human rights situation in China was deteriorating.

Yesterday, a bipartisan coalition of 41 members of the House called on the International Olympic Committee to reject China's bid to host the 2008 Games because of Beijing's rights record.

The New York-based Human Rights in China group asked Mr. Bush to raise with Mr. Qian the case of a U.S.-based Chinese scholar detained last month at the end of a family visit to China.

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