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Saturday, June 27, 1998 Published at 20:29 GMT 21:29 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Tiananmen ghost at the feast

President Clinton inspects the military with President Jiang Zemin

The legacy of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement has haunted the first full day of President Clinton's visit to the Chinese capital, Beijing.

BBC News' Duncan Hewitt reports from Beijing
After Mr Clinton became the first US President to step into the square since the suppression of the movement, he and the Chinese head of state Jiang Zemin publicly differed about events nine years ago when hundreds of unarmed students were shot or mown down by armored personnel carriers.

At a news conference in which the two men announced agreement on a number of issues, including nuclear weapons, President Clinton said the use of force against the pro-democracy demonstrators had been wrong.

Bill Clinton: "use of force was wrong"
President Jiang replied that it had been necessary to ensure stability. A BBC correspondent says he must have felt discomfited by the American President's remarks, which were shown live on Chinese television.

Formal ceremony

[ image: Students fill Tiananmen Square in 1989]
Students fill Tiananmen Square in 1989
Accompanied by President Jiang, Mr Clinton was earlier introduced to Chinese dignitaries in Tiananmen Square and listened from a podium to the national anthems of both countries.

At the end of the ceremony the two leaders inspected a guard of honour before walking up the stairs into the Great Hall to begin their formal summit meeting.

The BBC Beijing correspondent says that for China the event was standard diplomatic protocol, something a series of world leaders have taken part in in recent years.

BBC China specialist James Miles: Clinton's tough words
For the US President, however, it was perhaps one of the most controversial moments of his career.

Human rights groups and opponents in Congress have complained that Mr Clinton's appearance with the Chinese leadership in Tiananmen Square will send a signal that the world no longer cares about the events of 1989.

Both Republicans and Democrats have argued against the visit on the grounds of China's human rights record as well as being suspicious that Beijing's strategic aims are a threat to US security.

In their joint statement, the presidents talked of being partners, not adversaries, and said they had reached a broad range of agreements on political and economic issues.

Mr Clinton also expressed respect for China's economic reforms which he said had improved conditions for its people, but he stressed the importance that Americans placed on human rights.

He said he had asked President Jiang to open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama on Tibet, and to continue talks with Taiwan.

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