U.S. can't ignore China, Baker says Secretary of state plans to visit this month.

November 04, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

MADRID, Spain -- U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III says he will visit China later this month, effectively ending one of the last of the American sanctions imposed after the massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Baker told a news conference yesterday that China, with almost one-quarter of the world's people, is too big for the United States to continue to ignore, regardless of its dismal human rights record.

"We have some real problems," Baker said of U.S. relations with China. "We can't expect to make headway on these problems unless we discuss them. Ignoring them will not make the problems go away."

He said that China has nuclear weapons and "great influence in the region. It has immense economic potential."

Baker expects to be in China Nov. 15-17 as part of a previously scheduled trip to South Korea and Japan. In South Korea he will attend the annual meeting of foreign ministers of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation organization.

China has been pressing the United States to end its ban on high-level visits between the two countries that was imposed after the 1989 suppression of the Chinese democracy movement.

Baker had indicated earlier that he wanted China to improve its human rights record, take steps to diminish a troublesome surplus in its bilateral trade with the United States, end the sales of ballistic missiles to the Third World and stop exporting the products of prison labor.

U.S. officials said that Baker also is concerned about reports that China is providing technical assistance to an Iranian nuclear bomb program.

There was no indication that Beijing gave in on any of the issues.

"There is no secret that the Chinese wanted the secretary to come for a year and a half," a State Department official said in Madrid after Baker's announcement.

But Baker's trip could bring fresh complaints from critics of President Bush's policy toward China, who charge that he has been too lenient toward the hard-line leadership in Beijing.

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