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Sunday, February 28, 1999 Published at 17:27 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Albright flies in to Chinese human rights row

Tiananmen Square: Scene of democracy demonstrations in 1989

The US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, has arrived in China amid growing tensions between the two countries on a range of issues.

Richard Lister explains the background to the "major rifts" between the two powers
In the days leading up to her visit, Washington has criticised Beijing's human rights record and warned that China was posing a more serious military threat to Taiwan.

State Department spokesman James Rubin denied that a crisis was brewing in relations between the two countries.

But he said that the US deplored the detention of dissident Wu Yilong and the sentencing of democracy advocate Peng Ming on the eve of the visit.


In Beijing, Ms Albright will spell out that human rights ranks highly among US concerns, Mr Rubin said.

China and the US have been involved in a war of words since the State Department published a human rights report accusing China of summary executions, torture and arbitrary arrests. China hit back accusing the US of double standards.

Mr Rubin said: "Secretary Albright will do what she always does and that is tell it like it is on the subject of human rights.

"There has been an unfortunate deplorable pattern of crackdowns on political dissent."

China's missile capability

The US secretary of state will also urge China to avoid increasing tension with Taiwan, Mr Rubin said.

A Pentagon report estimates Beijing may have the capability by 2005 to launch an effective air and missile strike against the island, which China considers a renegade province.

[ image: Ms Albright was welcomed to China by the Foreign Ministry's Lu Xumin]
Ms Albright was welcomed to China by the Foreign Ministry's Lu Xumin
For its part, China objects to American proposals to develop a missile defence system for Japan and South Korea, which Taiwan would also like to use as protection.

Mr Rubin said: "If China wants to try to dissuade Japan from pursuing theatre missile defence, it should focus on the threat that is creating that need and urge North Korea to end its long-range missile programme."

"It's unrealistic for China to expect that Taiwan's leaders will not want to protect Taiwan, if China continues a military modernisation programme, with many of the missiles deployed in provinces close to Taiwan," he added.

Officials in China are also upset at Washington's veto last week of an export licence for a $450m commercial communications satellite sale to China by Hughes Electronics because of its possible Chinese military value.

Trade ties

Ms Albright was also planning talks with Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji in the hope that China would agree on terms for joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in time for his trip to Washington in April to meet President Bill Clinton.

Mr Rubin suggested that WTO progress could be delayed if China does not improve other aspects of its relationship with the US.

"She will be explaining to the Chinese and to Zhu Rongji specifically that if he and the Chinese want their trip to be a success to the United States that it's got to go beyond economic issues.

"The nature of the US-China relationship is broader than simply a question of WTO."

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