Baker gets minor, last-minute concessions from China

November 18, 1991|By Robert Benjamin | Robert Benjamin,Beijing Bureau of The Sun

BEIJING -- U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III left China last night after a prolonged, 11th-hour negotiating session that yielded some Chinese concessions on arms control and trade disputes but fewer gains on the sensitive issue of human rights.

The main new agreement announced by Mr. Baker was that China intends for the first time to abide by the Missile Technology Control Regime, an international pact limiting the sales of missiles and related technologies.

But that promise hinges on the United States' lifting its sanctions on sales of high-speed computers and satellite technology to China -- bans enacted in June in retaliation for planned Chinese missile deals with Pakistan and Syria.

Much of Mr. Baker's 18 hours of tough negotiations with senior Chinese leaders since Friday were devoted to China's human rights abuses. But by his own admission, that was the area of least progress.

Mr. Baker sought the release of Chinese political prisoners, but he mainly got from China a name-by-name accounting of the fate of 800 suspected jailed dissidents. The United States had requested that China provide information about them early last summer.

China also promised not to prevent prominent Chinese intellectuals and the relatives of exiled Chinese dissidents from obtaining exit visas necessary to leave China, as long as they do not face pending criminal proceedings, Mr. Baker said.

But that vow may not be worth much because the cases of Chinese political activists, particularly those involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, are often still under official investigation -- even if the dissidents have been released from jail.

Mr. Baker acknowledged that China's responses on human rights were "not as much as we would have hoped." But he characterized them as the start of new dialogue.

"I did not come here expecting a dramatic breakthrough," Mr. Baker said during a brief news conference. "The gulf is too wide to accomplish that in one trip.

"It has now been 2 1/2 years since the tragedy of Tiananmen," he said. "Unless we were to keep United States-China relations in a deep freeze forever, we had to start talking."

The official Chinese news agency hailed Mr. Baker's two-day visit as "a major move" toward the restoration of Sino-U.S. relations.

But whether yesterday's partial progress subdues critics of the Bush administration's policy of maintaining ties to China will likely depend on the Chinese leadership's next moves.

As Mr. Baker himself put it: "And we now look to China to address the problems in the relationship in a sustained way."

Mr. Baker spoke after a final session with Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen yesterday, one that was to have lasted only 45 minutes but that stretched on for more than five hours.

Other Chinese promises announced by Mr. Baker include vows to:

* Sign by the end of March the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. In August, China promised Japan that it would sign the pact, but it has been slow in moving toward that. Meanwhile, new allegations have emerged that China has been providing Iran with nuclear technology.

* Cooperate on ending exports of prison-made goods to the United States, including promptly investigating suspected violations. China has said that it does not knowingly export such products despite recent reports that the practice continues.

* Resolve U.S. concerns about the pirating of U.S. copyrights and patents in China. China already faces the prospect of punitive U.S. tariffs under a formal U.S. trade investigation if it does not come up with firm measures to cure this problem by Nov. 26.

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