- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Department of Defense may establish a hot line providing direct communication with its Chinese counterpart, according to a congressman who recently returned from China.

Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, Illinois Republican, said the hot line was one of several ideas that came up when he and Rep. Rick Larsen, Washington Democrat, met with Chinese government officials.

The White House and State Department already have such links with corresponding agencies in Beijing.

The two congressmen, co-chairmen of the U.S.-China Working Group in Congress, said in Washington last week that they had received a promise from Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai that an attache would be named at the Chinese Embassy in Washington immediately to work on issues related to intellectual-property rights.

Mr. Bo also said his ministry would purchase $31 million worth of fully licensed software to ensure that all state-owned offices in China cease using pirated software, the congressmen said during a forum at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

The U.S. delegation visited the Jiuquan Space Launch Center in Inner Mongolia, becoming the first foreign delegation to visit the site from which China launched its first and second manned spacecraft.

They also talked with officials about China’s role in resolving the Iran nuclear crisis and getting a resumption of six-party nuclear talks with North Korea.

“We take no position in key issues, and we don’t focus on any particular aspect,” said Mr. Kirk.

He said the ultimate goal of the working group, which was established in June, is to establish broad contacts between the two countries as the relationship comes to play a central role in 21st-century diplomacy.

The group counts among its members 35 congressmen who range from “panda huggers to dragon slayers,” Mr. Larsen said.

A similar working group was formed in the Senate last month, adding to the existing China Caucus in Congress, which mainly focuses on national security issues.

Mr. Kirk said many House members have negative and uninformed views toward China, compared with the more nuanced understanding in the White House and the Senate.

Containment is not the right strategy for dealing with China, Mr. Larsen said. “We can’t contain China. It’s out there already. We should bring Beijing to more engagements” in diplomatic, economic, social and cultural forums.

Mr. Kirk said greater understanding could be fostered by teaching Chinese in public schools.

“There are 200 million Chinese [who speak] English or have learned English, but only 26,000 Americans studied Chinese,” he said.

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