CHINA warns of damage to U.S. ties

Tuesday, May 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BEIJING (AP) _ China warned Tuesday that the visit by Taiwan's president to New York will make already tense relations worse and urged Washington to patch up frayed ties.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao also voiced anger over President Bush's decision to meet with the Dalai Lama, the leader of the Tibetan government in exile.

The Dalai Lama's visit to the White House on Wednesday, combined with the decision to allow Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's three-day stopover, reflected a toughening stance in Washington toward China, Zhu said.

He said it's up to the United States to decide whether to continue with this new tone, or put relations back on an even keel.

``The U.S. side has taken some hard-line attitudes ... it has constantly taken some actions interfering in China's internal affairs and damaging China's interests and further undermining China-U.S. relations,'' Zhu told reporters.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said China's reaction to the visits by Chen and the Dalai Lama came as no surprise. ``I think Chinese views on both these issues are fairly well-known. They've expressed them to us. They've expressed them in public,'' he said. ``But at the same time, I'd say our views are very well-known as well.''

When a Taiwanese leader last visited the United States in 1995, China held missile tests and other military exercises near the island, which sits 100 miles off the mainland's coast.

Analysts said no one expects China to react with the same fury during Chen's stopover to New York, where he met Tuesday with New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

China is too dependent now on the global economy, and particularly on its $120 billion per year trade with the United States. U.S. businesses also have almost $30 billion invested in China.

Still, relations between the United States and China have soured since the new U.S. administration took office.

Bush outraged Beijing last month by promising to use military force to defend Taiwan, breaking with decades of calculated vagueness by previous U.S. leaders. He also agreed to sell Taiwan submarines and other advanced weapons.

China has provoked condemnation in Washington by arresting several U.S. citizens and permanent residents of Chinese descent and by its continued crackdown on religious and political dissent.

The collision in April of a U.S. spy plane and Chinese fighter also highlighted the growing tensions between America's global influence and China's own ambitions to be a regional power.

``Dialogue has been sidetracked by the plane incident,'' said John Holden, president of the National Committee on United States-China Relations. ``The two countries need to begin working on ways to move to address the issues.''

The Taiwanese president arrived Monday to hundreds of supporters who braved rain to wave flags and cheer. He will stay until Wednesday before continuing to Latin America.

On his way back to Taiwan next week, Chen will also make a two-day stop in Houston. During both transit stops, he is to meet with members of Congress _ another potential irritant for Beijing.

Neither stopover is an official visit, and he will not meet with Bush administration officials. Still, the Chinese spokesman said that just by allowing Chen onto U.S. soil, Washington was breaking previous commitments only to have official dealings with Beijing.

``This act will inevitably harm China-U.S. relations. And the harm done is not something that we would like to see. It is something done by the U.S. side,'' Zhu said.

Taiwan and China separated during the 1949 communist revolution. Beijing views the island as a renegade province that must one day rejoin the motherland.

The Chinese government has similarly strong feelings about Tibet, which it regards as part of China's traditional territory. Beijing has branded the Dalai Lama, who fled his Himalayan homeland after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, as an ethnic nationalist bent on winning Tibetan independence.

While in Washington, the Tibetan leader is also to meet Tuesday with Secretary of State Colin Powell.

``We see him (the Dalai Lama) as a respected religious figure,'' Boucher said. ``Obviously, our position on Tibet is ... well-known. That's not changed. But these are important and useful meetings to improve our understanding of the situation in the region.''