U.S., China reveal little on Baker talks

November 16, 1991|By Robert Benjamin | Robert Benjamin,Beijing Bureau of The Sun

BEJING — BEIJING -- China's official media studiously played down U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III's arrival here yesterday, and U.S. officials were tight-lipped after his first meeting with his Chinese counterpart.

On both sides, the reactions reflected caution about the outcome of the two-day visit by Mr. Baker, the most senior U.S. official to journey to China since the bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

Mr. Baker is looking for concessions on human rights, arms control and trade issues, the major points of trouble in Sino-American relations. China is hoping to reap international respect and symbolic vindication for its hard-line policies from the visit.

During a 4 1/2 -hour meeting and dinner with Foreign Minister Qian Qichen yesterday, Mr. Baker outlined U.S. proposals for "things that we would like to see" China do, said a senior U.S. official.

Mr. Baker told Mr. Qian that human rights was a cornerstone of U.S. policy and that the United States would not ignore political repression,

the U.S. official said. Mr. Baker also raised concerns about Chinese sales of arms and nuclear technology to Pakistan, Syria, Iran and Algeria.

Mr. Baker assured Mr. Qian that the United States was not attempting to undermine China's government or leadership, as China repeatedly has alleged, the U.S. official said. No decisions were reached, said the U.S. official, who refused to detail the Chinese response.

China's official Xinhua news agency said Mr. Qian asked the United States to lift remaining economic sanctions against China as they "have harmed both sides."

It also said Mr. Baker reiterated President Bush's controversial stance in favor of unconditionally renewing China's most-favored-nation

trade status.

Before arriving here, Mr. Baker had considered meeting with unnamed Chinese dissidents, but that idea was dismissed because of probable repercussions for the dissidents, the U.S. official said.

Mr. Baker's official airport greeting yesterday afternoon was reserved and brief. His visit was barely noted in the newspapers, and it was the 18th item on China's main evening news show.

China may fear that news of Mr. Baker's presence will encourage dissident action.

Mr. Baker will meet today with Chinese Premier Li Peng, President Yang Shangkun and Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin, among others.

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