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June 13, 1998


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Nuclear crisis highlights need for alliance with US, says China

The Chinese ambassador to the US says the nuclear testing by India and Pakistan and the Asian financial crisis highlight the need for his communist country and the United States to become allies.

Though the Cold War was over, the issue of international stability has yet to be finally resolved, Ambassador Li Zhaoxing said yesterday. "So two countries as important as China and America still have a common responsibility and have a lot to do together.''

China recently chaired a Geneva meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which condemned the May nuclear tests. China also said it would not devalue its currency to avoid another Asian wave of falling currencies.

Li's comments at a news conference came two weeks before US President Bill Clinton was to visit China and a day after the president defended his upcoming trip.

Clinton said on Thursday that his visit is "the right thing to do for our country,'' and he promised to press Chinese President Jiang Zemin on human rights, environmental problems, weapons proliferation, crime and drug trafficking, and open trade.

He does not plan to meet with dissidents or their families, however. Li said the White House, sensitive to Chinese feelings, never made such a request.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported today that intelligence reports indicate that for the past two years, China's military has used US-made satellites, sold solely for civilian uses, to send messages to army posts across the vast nation.

The United States has barred American companies from selling any military equipment to the Chinese since the crackdown on pro-democracy students in 1989, and the United States has publicly said that satellites sold to Chinese-linked companies were being used only for civilian purposes.

Yet, the Times said, the classified reports provide evidence that China's People Liberation Army has gained advantage from the decisions by the administrations of both Clinton and former president George Bush to encourage the sale of satellite technology.

The intelligence reports were contained in a document put together last year by Pentagon officials and then distributed to hundreds of officials at the White House and state department, the newspaper said.

Clinton's five-city journey, from June 25 to July 3, will be the first visit to China by an American president since the Tiananmen square crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. It comes just eight months after Jiang visited Washington. The reciprocal US-China meeting is aimed at maintaining momentum in building upon the "constructive strategic partnership'' the two leaders agreed to last October.

The Chinese ambassador offered fresh assurances that his nation has only peaceful and prosperous ambitions. "China is pursuing a peaceful foreign policy,'' Li said. "China presents no threat to any country, at all.''

Still, the United States and China have much to disagree on.

For years, China assisted Pakistan's nuclear development and transferred missiles and missile technology to it despite US objections. It says it has stopped those practices but has refused to sign an international agreement that would bar such missile transfers.

Asked whether China could offer assurances that it is no longer helping Pakistan's missile programme, Li sidestepped the question.

"We don't want to see any proliferation, not only of nuclear weapons, but also of other kinds of weapons of mass destruction,'' he said.

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