- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2001

The Bush administration yesterday sought to shore up relations with two U.S. strategic competitors, vowing not to oppose Chinas bid for the 2008 Olympic Games and assuring Russia that it is "not our enemy."
The U.S. relationship with both countries has deteriorated over recent months. China held 24 U.S. Navy crew members hostage for 12 days in April after their surveillance plane made an emergency landing on Hainan island.
Russia, meanwhile, vehemently opposes a key proponent of President Bushs national security agenda: missile defense.
"I think we have a very good opportunity to have a relationship that is very positive," a senior Bush administration official who requested anonymity told reporters in a private meeting.
The administrations conciliatory words came as China — still holding the Navys EP-3E reconnaissance plane — voiced its anger over New York meetings yesterday between U.S. congressional leaders and Chen Shui-bian, president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), which Beijing considers a breakaway province.
Asked for the administrations position on Beijings bid to host the Olympics, the official told reporters: "That will be up to the Olympic Committee to make the decision."
On Russia, the official said Mr. Bush would look President Vladimir Putin "in the eyes" and tell him the longtime U.S. foe is no longer our enemy.
Mr. Bush will make a forceful case for the U.S. missile shield, telling Mr. Putin that the Cold War mentality based on mutually assured destruction no longer holds sway.
"If he is not our enemy, why should we have a system based on blowing each other up?" said the official, who added Mr. Bush will seek to use their June 16 meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to further shore up relations.
Russia has voiced displeasure over the proposed missile shield, which some Russian officials say violates the 1972 ABM treaty. But Mr. Putin softened when Mr. Bush announced this month he would seek worldwide input on the proposal.
Russia has been dealing heavily with China in recent weeks, providing arms and joining in opposition of U.S. policy.
China has insisted that the EP-3 plane will not be allowed to fly off Hainan island, in the South China Sea. But Pentagon officials said yesterday the plane could be flown out after a team of 15 to 25 technicians repair it, likely in less than three weeks.
"If in the end that is unacceptable to the Chinese, there are options and that is what we continue to discuss with them," said Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, a Pentagon spokesman.
Administration officials are trying to ease the tension over several events that have raised Chinas ire, including a scheduled meeting today between Tibets exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, and Mr. Bush.
The Dalai Lama is expected to ask Mr. Bush to help him initiate a dialogue with Beijing, which occupies Tibet.
"Relations with China, I would say, are stable and more positive than not," said the Bush official. "Stable in that theyre dealing with somebody whos not going to shift policy. Positive because I know that our interface with the country is substantial, not only in trade but in cultural exchanges and educational exchanges."
Mr. Chen met with U.S. lawmakers yesterday and was to travel to Texas for a major league baseball game as the guest of Rep. Tom DeLay, House majority whip.
The high-profile visit contrasts his stop last year in which President Clinton all but confined him to his hotel so as not to upset Beijing. Mr. Clinton also never "officially" met with the Dalai Lama, instead only "dropping in" on meetings between the Tibetan and Vice President Al Gore.

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