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Saturday, September 11, 1999 Published at 20:01 GMT 21:01 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

US and China ease tensions

The presidents met for an hour and half to ease tensions

The United States and China have agreed to resume talks immediately on Beijing's entry to the World Trade Organisation.


The BBC's Philippa Thomas in Auckland: "US offiicials say the policy of engagement is firmly back on track"
The breakthrough came at a meeting between US President Bill Clinton and his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, at a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in Auckland on Saturday.

It was the first time the two presidents had met since official contacts between the two countries were suspended after the Nato bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in May.

Mr Clinton said he was eager to strike a new trade deal with China, and to conclude an agreement for China to join the WTO.

A senior US trade official said negotiators from both countries had been asked "to start meeting as early as tomorrow".

'Back on track'

Speaking after the session, US National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger, said that relations with China were "back on track", and described the talks as "very productive, very friendly, quite comprehensive".


[ image: The Clintons arrive to a Maori welcome]
The Clintons arrive to a Maori welcome
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said he was confident the meeting would have a "very positive impact" on China-US relations.

"As long as the US side adopts a pragmatic as well as flexible approach to China's accession to the WTO, I do not think that accession will be that difficult," he said.

But he warned the US not to persist with its "high demands".

Taiwan

The two leaders also discussed Taiwan during their meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Forum (Apec).

Mr Clinton told the Chinese president that the US would maintain its "one China policy", which does not recognise Taiwan as an independent nation. "We favour a peaceful approach to working out the differences".

For his part, President Jiang repeated that while China hoped for the "peaceful unification" of Taiwan, Beijing would not rule out the use of force to prevent any move toward Taiwanese independence.

Improving ties

Correspondents say that while US-China ties are clearly fragile, the two presidents seemed at ease with each other, smiling and shaking hands as they posed for photographers.

The strains that developed in relations between the two countries after the embassy bombing showed signs of easing earlier this month when China proposed discussions on a resumption in WTO accession talks.

Those discussions were suspended in April when Mr Clinton rejected a package of Chinese concessions as insufficient.

China and the US have been trying to secure a WTO deal in time for the next round of multilateral trade talks, due to start 10 weeks from now in Seattle.



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