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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK
China demands US attack evidence
Chinese man reading newspaper
China has been shocked by the attack
China says it wants to see "concrete evidence" against potential targets before it will support a US military strike against those suspected of involvement in last week's attacks in New York and Washington.

The act should have a clear orientation that should not hurt innocent people

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao
It is the first clear indication China has given of the circumstances under which it would be able to accept US action.

China's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, any military action should first gain the approval of the United Nations and should be limited to specific terrorist targets.

Our correspondent in Beijing says this is a clear call to the US to seek the approval of the UN Security Council, on which China is a permanent member with veto power.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao also said any attacks should have a clear objective and should not hurt innocent people.

Chinese separatism

He suggested that in return for its support, China would expect to gain US understanding of its own fight against separatist movements.

"China, by the same token, has reason to ask the United States to give its support and understanding in the fight against terrorism and separatists," he said.

Although Mr Zhu did not name any specific group, China is struggling with independence movements in its far-western Xinjiang province, where a majority of the population are Muslim.

However, Mr Zhu ruled out a linking Chinese co-operation to US policy on Taiwan.

Many of these issues are expected to be discussed when China's Foreign Minister, Tang Jiaxuan, arrives in the United States later today.

China is also sending a vice-foreign minister to Islamabad for talks with Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf.

Chinese dilemma

Our correspondent, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, says the Chinese Government is in a difficult position.

On the one hand, it would very much like to see the destruction of terrorist networks run by the likes of Osama Bin Laden and other groups based inside Afghanistan, because Muslim separatists operating within its own borders are thought to be getting support from Afghan-based groups.

On the other hand, China has been implacably opposed to the US or Nato intervening in what it calls the internal affairs of other countries.

China, for example, strongly opposed Nato intervention in Kosovo two years ago, and refused to support the US-led coalition during the Gulf War.

See also:

13 Sep 01 | Americas
China asks US to look beyond Nato
13 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Bush 'will visit China'
16 Sep 01 | Americas
US prepares for war
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