Cheney is in Beijing to nurture ties

China eager to be seen as important U.S. partner

April 14, 2004|By Doyle McManus and Mark Magnier | Doyle McManus and Mark Magnier,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BEIJING - Vice President Dick Cheney arrived yesterday for a two-day visit to China aimed at nudging the country's leaders toward greater democratization and cooperation with the United States on Asian security issues, including the standoff over North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Cheney praised China yesterday for working with the United States on regional and global issues.

"We believe we can do good work together," the Associated Press quoted Cheney as saying at a dinner held by Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong at the Great Hall of the People.

Cheney conferred today with China's top leaders and pronounced the U.S.-Chinese relationship to be "in good shape." He brought praises for China's efforts to prod North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.

Cheney met in separate sessions with Chinese President Hu Jintao, his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, and Premier Wen Jiabao.

Earlier, in an unusually blunt appeal, Zeng asked Cheney during a one-on-one meeting for Washington to stop selling defensive weapons to Taiwan, Chinese state media reported.

"There is only one China and Taiwan is part of China," an announcer, citing Zeng, said on the state television evening news. The official Xinhua News Agency said Cheney affirmed U.S. policy, which doesn't support formal independence for Taiwan.

U.S. and Chinese officials indicated that during Cheney's stay they do not expect any breakthroughs on issues that divide the two governments, including Taiwan, human rights and trade.

But both sides noted that the U.S.-China relationship has improved markedly since 2001, and they described the Cheney visit as aimed at keeping that progress inching forward.

A senior American official said Cheney is especially interested in a broad-scale strategic dialogue to deepen the U.S. relationship with Hu, who came to office last year.

"We don't know Hu very much," the official said, noting that Hu has had only two relatively brief meetings with President Bush during conferences in France and Thailand.

The official said the Bush administration believes that Hu is part of a "new leadership" that could bring his country into closer cooperation with the United States as China modernizes its economy and reforms its Communist political system.

Relations between the two nations have gradually warmed over the past three years, helped by China's decisions to support the United States in its battle against terrorist groups, to refrain from active opposition to the war in Iraq, and to cooperate in efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programs.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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