U.S. to pay Chinese in embassy bombing

Money a step toward normal relationship

July 31, 1999|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

BEIJING -- In a sign that Sino-U.S. relations are moving beyond the deep freeze that set in after NATO bombed the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia, both sides agreed yesterday that the U.S. will pay $4.5 million to the injured and the families of those who died in the May attack.

U.S. officials emphasized that the payments -- which the Chinese government will distribute -- are "humanitarian" in nature in hopes that they will not provide a legal precedent for future claims resulting from damage during war.

"The U.S. has made clear that this payment will be entirely voluntary and does not acknowledge any legal liability," said David Andrews, legal adviser to the U.S. State Department. "This payment will not create any precedent."

The agreement came after three days of discussion, which Andrews described as very professional and courteous. He added that the State Department would inform Congress of the deal on Monday, but that the agreement did not require legislative approval.

In announcing the deal last night, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reiterated that the embassy bombing "grossly violated international law" and that "the U.S. must bear all responsibility for this."

The agreement is one of several recent signs that the Chinese want to resume normal relations with the United States twelve weeks after NATO planes destroyed its embassy in Belgrade, in what was called a mistake, and triggered the biggest anti-Western protests China has seen in decades.

Last weekend, the Chinese announced that President Jiang Zemin and President Clinton would meet in September at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in New Zealand to work on repairing the countries' relationship.

This week, the two sides resumed high-level trade talks for the first time since the bombing May 7.

China is thought to still want to enter the World Trade Organization (WTO) before a new round of talks in November. The WTO sets global trading rules.

And on Thursday, a U.S. Air Force cargo plane landed in Hong Kong, ending the two-month ban on the presence of U.S. military aircraft and ships in the former British colony.

Sino-U.S. relations sunk to their lowest point in years after NATO bombers struck the embassy, killing three Chinese journalists and injuring 27 others.

The United States has blamed the bombing on a series of errors, including faulty maps.

The Chinese have rejected the explanation and insisted from the beginning that the bombing was a deliberate attack to keep their nation from rising as a world power. The government's decision to portray the bombing as essentially an act of war and not report NATO apologies for several days contributed to the large-scale demonstrations against U.S. diplomatic sites around China.

In Beijing, crowds of more than 10,000 people marched on U.S. Embassy buildings, pelting them with rocks and paint bombs and trapping former Ambassador James R. Sasser inside for days.

While the bombing led many Chinese to declare that they hated America, personal protests against drinking Coke and eating at McDonald's did not last very long. And Chinese students continue to flood the consulate here requesting visas to study in the United States.

Left unresolved yesterday was the issue of payment for property damage to the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade and U.S. facilities in China.

U.S. claims include the consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu, which suffered fire damage during the protests. Andrews said he would return here toward the end of August to continue those discussions.

Pub Date: 7/31/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.