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Thursday, 3 May, 2001, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
US 'split' on China policy
US embassy official preparing for talks in Beijing
The US is still feeling its way in relations with China
By Rob Watson in Washington

There is still a sense of confusion in Washington over relations with China.


Pentagon spokesmen have been describing it all as an honest misunderstanding

First, the Pentagon said it was suspending its military ties, then retracted, saying they were only under review.

Since then, in public at least, Pentagon spokesmen have been describing it all as an honest misunderstanding.

In private, the picture is more murky, with some officials suggesting the retraction followed pressure on the Pentagon from the White House.

To support that theory, officials both inside and outside the government said they had been informed of the suspension order days before it had been made public.

Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Rumsfeld favours a tougher approach
Whatever the real reason, the mix-up does seem to reflect some confusion within the Bush administration over how best to deal with China.

There is a sense here that the Pentagon, headed by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, favours a tougher approach while the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and some of the president's other foreign policy aides are advising caution.

What is clear is that the President and his advisors were both surprised and angered by China's decision to detain the air crew of the US spy plane, and are still feeling their way on how to react.

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See also:

03 May 01 | Americas
China blasts Bush policies
01 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Spy plane recovery team arrive
02 May 01 | Americas
US rejects 'Made in China' berets
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