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Week of July 9, 1999

Week of July 9, 1999

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Governments Discussing Indemnity Payment for Belgrade Bombing


In an effort to resume talks in a variety of areas, American and Chinese officials are discussing a compensation package to the Chinese government for damage done to its embassy in Belgrade and the deaths of three Chinese citizens that occurred during a NATO bombing mission. Despite the Chinese government’s rejection of the American explanation for the inadvertent bombing offered by Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, officials on both sides are hopeful that an indemnity agreement will lead to the reopening of talks on China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, and military exchanges. Since May, China has barred U.S. warships and military aircraft from entering Hong Kong.

Members of Congress have objected to the fact that there has not been any discussion of indemnity payments to the U.S. for destruction to American embassies and consulates in China that were damaged by public reaction to the Belgrade bombing.

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Bitterness Ensues


Hopes that the U.S.-China relationship will soon be on the mend have been dashed once again this week over two issues: the incoming U.S. ambassador to China, and U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. On June 30, three and a half year ambassador James Sasser stepped down. China expressed anger that information on his successor, retired Admiral Joseph W. Prueher, was leaked by the press before China was consulted. The Clinton administration contends that because a final decision has not been made, China has not been officially notified of his selection. Tension has mounted in China over the fact that Admiral Prueher was commander of U.S. forces in Asia during the 1996 Straits crisis when U.S. carriers moved into the area in response to Chinese missile exercises. It is yet unclear whether or not China approves of Admiral Prueher, but the U.S. is putting aside China’s concerns and proceeding with the nomination of his appointment.

Another area of recent contention is China’s claim that recent approval of U.S. defence budget increases is proof that the U.S. is violating agreements with Beijing by increasing arms sales and military contacts to Taiwan. Caught between its obligation to offer military defense assistance through the Taiwan Relations Act and the agreement to reduce arms sales to Taiwan under the 1982 Shanghai Communique, the U.S. appears to be committed to maintaining the status quo of a military balance of power between Taiwan and the mainland.

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Ambassador Sasser Steps Down


On June 30, three and a half year ambassador to China, James Sasser stepped down from one of the most important posts in America’s foreign relations today. Sasser arrived at his post just prior to the 1996 Taiwan Straits crisis. He spent his term earnestly rebuilding relations in Beijing and increasing China’s prestige in America. Among ambassador Sasser’s most notable accomplishments were escalating the number of congressional visits to China and effectively building military-to-military ties between the two governments. Because of Sasser’s efforts, Congressional attitudes toward China improved significantly prior to the release of the Cox Report to Congress last December. A proponent of Clinton’s engagement policy, Sasser has done much to support efforts to encourage China to become a responsible and mature emerging power. James Sasser is moving on to a post in Vice President Al Gore’s presidential campaign.

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Members of China Democratic Party Taken Into Custody


Five members of an opposition political party, the China Democratic Party (CDP), were taken into custody by Chinese police last week, in what is labeled as a crack-down by human rights organizations in Hong Kong and the U.S. The Hong Kong based Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movements reported that on July 6th four carloads of public security officials arrived at the home of Beijing activist He Depu with an arrest warrant. The following day, police arrested four CDP members in Sichuan, ransacking their homes and removing address books and documents. News sources state that Zhen Wei, Liu Xianbin, She Wanbao, and Ou Yangyi join at least 9 other CDP members who have been arrest since June, including Yu Feng of Hebei, recently indicted on charges of subversion.

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New Diplomatic Relations with PNG


On July 5, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Bill Skate signed a deal with Taiwan for mutual diplomatic recognition. Two days later, facing accusations of asking Taiwan to buy its ties with $2.35 billion in soft loans and other financial assistance, Mr. Skate stepped down. The deal will go ahead as signed for the time being, but a newly appointed Prime Minister may withdraw Taiwan’s official ties due to pressure from a strongly pro-China Australia, which is the other main source of economic assistance for the extremely small and economically weak country.

The U.S. and China This Week
The U.S. and China This Week

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