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The BBC's Rob Watson in Washington
"Not surprisingly, the two men disagreed over human rights"
 real 56k

Friday, 23 March, 2001, 03:49 GMT
Bush reassures China
President Bush and Chinese Vice-Premier Qian at the White House
Both sides want good ties despite differences
President George W Bush has told visiting Chinese Vice-Premier Qian Qichen that the United States will not take any actions that would threaten China.

After sensitive talks expected covering a wide range of sensitive issues, a senior US official said the meeting has been cordial and constructive.


It would certainly be a lot easier to move forward in a constructive way when the people with whom we conduct our affairs honour religious freedom

President Bush
The official said President Bush had looked Qian Qichen in the eye and said: "We can have a good relationship."

Chinese officials have not commented on the talks.

Sitting with Mr Qian at the White House before the start of private talks, Mr Bush acknowledged there were differences.

''I'll be firm and he will be firm in our opinions, but we'll do so in a respectful way,'' he told reporters.

''It is in our nation's best interests that we have good relations with China.''

Mr Qian said it was in the interests of China, Asia and the Pacific region to ''maintain friendly relations and co-operation between China and the United States.''

Issues

Referring to America's planned missile defence programme, the US official said Mr Bush had reassured his guest that American would do nothing aimed against China.

"Nothing we do is a threat to you, and I want you to tell that to your leadership," President Bush was quoted as saying.

On the ultra-sensitive issue of US arms sales to Taiwan, Mr Bush had said no decision had been made yet.

Before the talks, however, he said he would honour US obligations on Taiwan's defence needs.

Chinese officials warned on Thursday that any sales of advanced weapons to Taiwan would be seen as a violation of agreements signed between the two countries.

Human rights

A BBC correspondent says that, as expected, the two men disagreed over human rights, with President Bush expressing concerns about religious rights in China in particular.

''It would certainly be a lot easier to move forward in a constructive way when the people with whom we conduct our affairs honour religious freedom within their borders,'' he said.

Mr Qian's visit comes amid controversy over an American-based academic who is being held in Beijing.

The US official said Mr Bush had protested over the detention of the academic - Gao Zhan - who was detained along with her husband and their five-year-old son at Beijing airport last month.

She has been kept in custody though her husband and son were eventually released.

Mr Qian had promised to get back to Washington on the dispute, according to the official.

NMD technology
The proposed US missile defence shield will give early warning of attacks
Earlier, Mr Qian met Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who pressed for increased openness in US-China military relations.

Mr Rumsfeld stressed that exchanges such as reciprocal visits to military bases should be ''mutually beneficial to both nations'', a US spokesman said.

Mr Qian responded that the secretary's proposal was a goal to strive for, the spokesman said.

'Strategic competitor'

Mr Bush has indicated a shift in American position when he described China as a "strategic competitor" rather than a potential "strategic partner".

On Monday, the State Department confirmed that the new administration was dropping former President Clinton's so-called "three No's" policy:

  • No support for Taiwan independence
  • No recognition of a separate Taiwanese Government
  • No backing for Taiwanese membership of international organisations

The move reflects strong support in Congress for Taiwan, especially among President Bush's Republican Party.

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See also:

22 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Tension in US-China talks
21 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
US family detained in China
15 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
US warns China on missile build-up
16 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
China builds new missile base
16 Mar 01 | Americas
Bush adds China to Asia itinerary
13 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
US report urges Taiwan arms sales
06 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
China warns Bush over Taiwan
21 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Q&A: Taiwan's relations with China
06 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Military funding reflects China's fears
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