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Monday, 24 January, 2000, 19:54 GMT
US and China restore military ties

Chinese protest The Belgrade embassy bombing sparked outrage in China

A senior Chinese general is having talks in the United States for the first time since US warplanes bombed China's embassy in Belgrade last May during the Kosovo conflict.

The visit by Lieutenant General Xiong Guangkai - the deputy chief of staff of the army and the head of China's National Security Council - marks the formal resumption of military contact between Washington and Beijing, which China had suspended in response to the embassy bombing.

Beijing has never accepted the US explanation that the embassy bombing was a mistake.

Now, following Washington's recent payment of $28m compensation and the bilateral agreement on China's membership of the World Trade Organisation, contacts are being restored.

General Xiong is known for his hard-line rhetoric about the United States and his visit is proving controversial with some Congressional Republicans who say he is the wrong man to do business with.

But the Clinton administration feels it has much to gain from the resumption of military contacts with Beijing and will be using this visit to try to set up further high-level meetings throughout the year.


By bringing senior Chinese military officials to American facilities, Washington hopes to underline its ability to defend Taiwan, while also gaining a better understanding of China's efforts to modernise its military.

But relations between Beijing and Washington remain distinctly cool.

Washington says China has been selling sensitive military equipment to what US officials call rogue states, such as Iran and Iraq.

China is concerned about US military support for Taiwan and, along with Russia, has condemned American proposals to build a national missile defence system which could be extended to embrace Taiwan.

This week's discussions in Washington will focus on a year-long programme of exchanges, including visits to China by the Defence Secretary William Cohen and the commander of American forces in the Pacific, Admiral Dennis Blair.

Military officers will attend each other's exercises and manoeuvres.


A BBC correspondent in Washington says that the administration's efforts to portray China as a strategic partner have been tempered by a wary US Congress, which has declared much of America's defence infrastructure off-limits to Chinese officials.

The Chinese are also angry at Washington's continued military support for Taiwan and its announcement that the US will seek United Nations censure of Beijing for its human rights record. The next few days of talks here are not expected to be straightforward.

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See also:
27 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
China-US: A turbulent year
16 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
US agrees embassy compensation
24 Nov 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
China drops trade barriers
11 May 99 |  Europe
US used wrong map for embassy attack

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