Thursday, March 24, 2005

New Chinese envoy

China’s vice foreign minister, a longtime observer of American policies, is the country’s new ambassador to the United States, a Chinese official announced yesterday.

Zhou Wenzhong will replace Yang Jiechi, who will leave Washington to take Mr. Zhou’s position in the Foreign Ministry, said ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.

Mr. Zhou will take up his post here as U.S. officials are growing alarmed over a new Chinese law that would authorize force to stop the Republic of China (Taiwan) from declaring independence.

As vice foreign minister, Mr. Zhou tangled last year with U.S. officials over the Taiwan and bitterly complained about a House resolution supporting freedom in Hong Kong.

In September, he demanded that the United States stop arming Taiwan and denounced the House resolution as interference in China’s domestic affairs, when he met with James A. Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Also in September, he delivered a similar message on Taiwan to visiting U.S. scholars.

“Currently what is most important for the United States is to translate into reality its commitment to the one-China policy and opposition to Taiwan independence, in particular to stop upgrading relations with Taiwan and selling it advanced weapons,” he said, according to a report in the China Daily.

“We are especially concerned about the sales of large quantities of advanced weapons to Taiwan and enhancement of military ties between the United States and Taiwan. In so doing, Taiwan independence forces will be emboldened to go down the road to Taiwan independence as far as possible.”

Mr. Zhou, a member of the Chinese diplomatic service since 1970, served twice at the Chinese Embassy here and at consulates in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

He was an attache and later third secretary at the embassy from 1978 to 1983 and then minister-counselor in his second tour in Washington from 1995 to 1998.

Mr. Zhou served as deputy consul-general in San Francisco from 1987 to 1990 and as consul-general in Los Angeles from 1994 to 1995.

He served two previous tours as an ambassador, from 1990 to 1993 in Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and from 1998 to 2001 in Australia.

Syrian spies to leave

Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha this week insisted that “every single” Syrian soldier and spy will leave Lebanon before elections in the country in May.

The ambassador has predicted before that the 14,000 Syrian troops will leave before the elections, but his statement at Georgetown University on Wednesday was the first time he addressed the issue of withdrawing Syrian spies, who are thought to be deeply burrowed into Lebanese society.

“We are withdrawing every single Syrian official from Lebanon, whether he is regular army or in the security or intelligence forces,” he said at a press conference. “This is categoric.”

Mr. Moustapha defended Syria’s 29-year occupation of Lebanon, noting that his government intervened in 1976 to stop a civil war that killed up to 150,000 people.

“We believe, rightly or wrongly, that we’ve done a good job there. Have we made mistakes? Definitely,” he said.

Pressure for a complete withdrawal built after the assassination last month of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Many observers blamed Syria for the killing, and hundreds of thousands of protesters have since demanded liberation.

Mr. Moustapha said blaming Syria for the assassination makes no sense.

“No other incident has caused such terrible damage to Syria. Anyone with simple logical analysis can tell the party that was damaged most by this crime was Syria,” he said.

“Syria,” he added, “wants out of Lebanon as soon as possible. The sooner, the better.”

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail

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