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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton-Jiang Talks Threatened

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei -- A hoped-for meeting this fall between U.S. President Bill Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin to ease growing tensions between the two countries is threatened by the imprisonment in China of American human rights activist Harry Wu.


Secretary of State Warren Christopher said Monday that it is "very difficult for me to envision any circumstances'' under which the two presidents could meet if Wu is still in a Chinese prison on charges of illegally entering China.


Meanwhile, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman indicated that Beijing would oppose discussion of Wu in talks that Christopher is scheduled to have with Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen on Tuesday during a conference of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.


Qian's spokesman, Shen Guofang, told reporters that Wu's case was a criminal case, that it would be dealt with in the courts and that the Chinese government had no authority to interfere in the judiciary.


"The case of Harry Wu is an isolated criminal case. It has no direct linkage with Chinese-U.S. relations,'' he told reporters.


Christopher said that when he meets Qian, "a discussion of high-level visits'' is on the agenda. He also will give Qian a letter from Clinton to Jiang which a senior U.S. official said did not contain an invitation to a meeting when Jiang is scheduled to visit the United Nations.


The Chinese are known to be very interested in a Clinton-Jiang meeting and the U.S. administration is clearly open to the idea.


But the arrest of Wu, a Chinese-born U.S. citizen, has clouded the prospects for a session between the two presidents. It also could play a decisive role in whether first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will lead the U.S. delegation to an international women's conference in Beijing later this year.


Wu was arrested June 19 when he tried to enter China from Kazakhstan. Before he was allowed to emigrate from China, Wu spent 19 years in Chinese labor camps. Since then he has returned to China several times and gathered evidence of human rights abuses.


If Clinton went ahead with a Jiang meeting while Wu remained in prison, it would stir powerful opposition in the Republican Congress where Wu has many admirers.


The arrest of Wu is only one of several recent irritants in relations between the two countries.


China was outraged when the Clinton administration permitted President Lee Teng-hui of Taiwan to make an unofficial visit to the United States.


Christopher is facing an unusual undertone of personal animosity because of Chinese suggestions that he misled Qian last April when he told his Chinese counterpart that the Clinton administration would oppose Lee's proposed visit.


A month later, to China's considerable dismay, Clinton yielded to overwhelming congressional votes and granted Lee a visa.


The Chinese felt they had been burned. Many U.S. experts on China believe that Qian's own standing within the Chinese leadership -- and the Foreign Ministry's clout within the government -- suffered because Beijing was not warned in advance that Lee would be making the trip.


The controversy over the April meeting demonstrates how the growing friction between the Clinton administration and the Republican-dominated Congress is creating problems for U.S. foreign policy. (AP, LAT)