- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

BEIJING China rebuffed the United States' approach to Iraq and North Korea yesterday and received a chiding admonition from Washington for its deteriorating human rights record.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell met with China's top leaders to ask them to accept, or at least not veto, a new U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq and to seek their support for multilateral talks with North Korea about its nuclear program.
But in more than four hours of meetings with President Jiang Zemin; vice president and Communist Party leader, Hu Jintao; and Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, Mr. Powell did not hear what he hoped for.
Beijing renewed its calls for a "political solution" to the Iraq situation and bilateral U.S.-North Korean talks "on an equal footing."
"Most members of the international community, including China, believe it is imperative now to continue weapons inspections in Iraq to find out the truth, rather than work on a new U.N. resolution on Iraq," the official Xinhua news agency quoted Mr. Tang as telling Mr. Powell.
Mr. Tang also made clear that "Iraq should be more active and unconditional in its all-round cooperation with the United Nations" and that its "weapons of mass destruction must be completely destroyed," the agency said.
Mr. Powell's hosts did not say whether China, a permanent Security Council member along with the United States, Britain, France and Russia, would veto the latest U.N. resolution on Iraq, which was circulated at the United Nations by the United States and Britain yesterday.
On the nuclear standoff with North Korea, Mr. Hu noted that "historical experience has shown that the [North Korean] nuclear issue can only be properly settled through dialogue and consultation."
He added that "China hopes the United States and [North Korea] will conduct direct dialogue as soon as possible," Xinhua reported.
Mr. Powell is on a four-day tour of Japan, China and South Korea, during which he is sharing ideas about a multilateral forum for talks with the North that would involve regional powers and other interested countries.
In Tokyo on Saturday, he discussed holding such a forum within the "five plus five" group, whose members are the five nations with permanent seats on the Security Council, as well as North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Australia and the European Union.
Japan was not enthusiastic about the proposal, although it offered cautious support for a multilateral process.
The reception of the idea in China was even cooler. Mr. Powell did not mention "five plus five" at all yesterday.
Mr. Powell told reporters yesterday that the Chinese "are anxious to play as helpful a role as they can," based on their "long, deep and historical relationship with North Korea" but that they prefer to do it quietly.
He was more blunt when he spoke about China's human rights record. In language not used by the United States since the two countries began cooperating in the fight against terrorism, he pointed to "some setbacks on human rights that threaten to undercut the progress that we had previously made."
"We have been deeply concerned by the execution of a prominent Tibetan, the detention of more than a dozen democracy activists and the continuation of a pattern of inconsistent and irregular legal and judicial procedures," Mr. Powell said.
After talks with Chinese leaders, Mr. Powell flew to Seoul to attend the inauguration of President-elect Roh Moo-hyun today.

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