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Saturday, 28 July, 2001, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
US upbeat as China tensions ease
Colin Powell (left) with China's Jiang Zemin
A positive mood despite major differences
United States Secretary of State Colin Powell says Chinese leaders have agreed to resume a human rights dialogue with Washington during "candid" talks in Beijing.

Mr Powell met Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji during a one-day visit which appears to have eased tension between the two countries.


I made the case and the strong point that there is nevertheless a universality with respect to human rights that I think all nations should aspire to

Colin Powell

"I am pleased that our two countries will be resuming our dialogue on human rights in the coming months," Mr Powell told a news conference in Beijing.

He said he did not raise specific cases such as three academics with US connections who were expelled by China this week.

Improvement

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Beijing says Mr Powell's visit marks a big improvement in relations, but there are clearly also many outstanding differences.

US officials indicated that human rights - a major source of tension in Sino-US relations - did not top their agenda.

Chinese soldier
China announced a big boost in military spending this year

Discussions on human rights were broken off after US jets on a Nato mission bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the 1999 Kosovo crisis.

On another key issue - hi-tech weapons proliferation - Mr Powell said both sides had "moved the ball forward," but there were still some areas of disagreement.

The White House says it is firmly opposed to all Chinese transfers of technology relating to missiles and weapons of mass destruction to other countries.

However, Mr Powell said military-to-military contacts with Beijing would restart soon.

He is the most senior member of the present Bush administration to visit China. President Bush plans to visit Beijing in October.

Relations tested

The first few months of the Bush administration put Sino-US relations through their toughest test in years.

EP-3 spy plane
The spy plane row tested the new US administration

China is strongly opposed to President Bush's plans for a hi-tech missile defence system.

And relations hit a new low point in April when a US spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet.

The US crew of 24 were in effective held hostage by China for 11 days while it demanded a US apology.

Shortly before Mr Powell's arrival, China released three scholars with US connections who had been convicted of spying.

Gao Zhan and Qin Guangguang were freed on medical grounds hours after being given 10-year prison sentences, while Li Shaomin, a US citizen, was deported.

Pressure on human rights

Human rights groups urged Mr Powell to take a firmer stand.


The scale of China's human rights problem cannot be hidden

Amnesty International
"The Bush administration must seek concrete improvements," an Amnesty International USA statement said.

"The scale of China's human rights problem cannot be hidden."

Chinese dissident Ren Wanding told The Associated Press news agency that mere concern did not help the situation and human rights violations in China were "just as bad".

And the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy published an open letter by 35 Chinese activists calling for Mr Powell to seek medical parole for dissident Xu Wenli.

Xu's health has deteriorated since he was given a 13-year prison sentence three years ago for setting up an opposition party.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
United States Secretary of State Colin Powell
"We had a candid exchange of views"
The BBC's Bill Hayton
"If the issues can be resolved it will pave the way for a successful visit by President Bush in the autumn"
The BBC's Jon Leyne, in Beijing
"Mr Powell says he still wants to raise wider human rights issues"
See also:

27 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
'Bittersweet' return for China-US scholar
08 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Seoul's fears over Bush
08 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Bush rules out North Korea talks
27 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Powell's China mission
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