China Says It Will Stop
Targeting Nuclear
Warheads On US
By Carol Giacomo
``According to the ancient Chinese philosophy, the Chinese people are a people that always honour our words with real actions.'' (Ahem. Why do many Americans somehow not believe this? - ed)
MANILA (Reuters) - Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan on Monday gave new assurances that his government would follow through on a promise to stop targeting strategic nuclear weapons at the United States. At the start of talks with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, he noted that the decision to refocus the weapons away from the United States was made and announced by Chinese President Jiang Zemin and U.S. President Bill Clinton at last month's summit in Beijing. ``According to the ancient Chinese philosophy, the Chinese people are a people that always honour our words with real actions,'' Tang told reporters. But he did not say specifically if this had already been accomplished. China is believed to have 18 operational missiles, including 13 targeted on the United States and five on other countries. The Tang-Albright talks -- for which the Chinese foreign minister was about 10 minutes late -- occurred on the fringes of the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It was the highest level contact between the two governments since the June 27 summit, which was widely considered successful and gave a huge boost to Sino-American relations. Albright reinforced that harmonious theme on Monday, telling Tang it was ``very nice to be able to start the day with you because we really are now friends.'' She told reporters the two ministers and their teams of experts would be discussing a range of issues ``as we work towards developing our strategic partnership.''

A U.S. official described the meeting as ``very positive'' and said the two ministers were determined to maintain forward momentum in the Sino-American relationship. He said Albright expressed concern in the meeting about new detentions of political dissidents in China since the summit. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, termed the detentions ``recent steps backward in human rights.'' Albright also raised China's summit commitment to sign a U.N. covenant on civil and political rights by the end of the year and was reassured by Tang that Beijing intended to fulfil this pledge. U.S. officials had said earlier that one month after the Sino-American summit, they are growing concerned that China has not released more political dissidents as they expected. As a result, they said Albright would press this issue when she met Tang. ``This will be an opportunity to remind them of our expectations,'' a senior U.S. official said. But after the meeting with Tang, the official who briefed reporters indicated that Albright had not raised this issue directly, focusing instead on the new detentions and the need for Beijing to sign the U.N. covenant. Officials have acknowledged that the longer Beijing takes to act on the issue of political dissidents -- a major thorn in Sino-American ties -- the more the credibility and good feeling created by the summit will be dissipated. The summit broke new ground in the degree to which Clinton was permitted by Chinese authorities to discuss human rights, democracy and economic freedoms on national television. In the last nine months, China has released two prominent jailed dissidents -- Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan -- and sent them into exile in the United States on medical parole. But U.S. officials and rights activists say this must be followed by a more systemic release of thousands of other people unfairly jailed for their political and religious beliefs. In the Monday meeting with Tang, Albright also raised the discussion Clinton and Jiang had in Beijing on Tibet, the predominantly Buddhist region that human rights activists accuse Beijing of repressing, the official said. Clinton had urged Jiang to open a dialogue with Tibet's religious leader, the Dalai Lama, and Albright told Tang she hoped the Chinese would ``take to heart'' the American president's suggestion, the official said. Tang ``took her message on board,'' the U.S. official said. The official said the bulk of the meeting focused on the crisis created in South Asia when India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons last May. Albright briefed Tang on Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott's recent trip to New Delhi and Islamabad. In addition, the two ministers agreed that it was critical for the international community to continue trying to persuade both governments to pledge to end nuclear testing and not to deploy nuclear weapons, the U.S. official said. Albright's team at the meeting included the top State Department expert on non-proliferation, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Einhorn, and the administration's special coordinator on Tibet, Greg Craig, whose main job is as the department's policy planning director.

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