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Powell: China Is Not Inevitable Foe

Transcript: Powell Tells Beijing Envoy China Is Not Inevitable Foe

(Excerpt on Chinese ambassador's farewell visit to State) (1230)

The message from America's new Secretary of State Colin Powell to China's outgoing Ambassador to the United States Li Zhaoxing was of the need for "tolerance and the rule of law," according to State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher.

Reiterating Powell's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Boucher said the United States does not see "China as an inevitable foe."

While critical of Beijing's oppression of religious groups, Boucher said during the January 24 noon briefing that Powell "made clear that we have a One China Policy, and that we will follow the communiqués and our other obligations with regard to China, as well as our obligations to meet the defensive needs of Taiwan."

Reporters asked Boucher about the self-immolation of five members of the Falun Gong in Tiananmen Square, and Boucher took the opportunity to renew the State Department's condemnation of China's crackdown on that group.

"I would call on China to release all those detained or imprisoned for peacefully exercising their internationally recognized rights to freedom of religion, freedom of belief and freedom of conscience," Boucher said.

Following is an excerpt covering those subjects from the official transcript of the State Department daily briefing:

(begin transcript excerpt)

Q: And China? Did the Secretary have a meeting this morning with the Chinese Ambassador?

MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary met this morning with the Chinese Ambassador. The timing was -- it was a farewell call. The Chinese Ambassador is returning to Beijing. He is going to assume a senior position in the Foreign Ministry. So the timing was basically dictated by his departure.

The Secretary and he discussed the -- first, it was a farewell call; second, they sort of discussed a general outline, some of the issues in US-China relations. And basically what the Secretary said was along the lines of what he said in his opening testimony, that we don't see China as an inevitable foe. There are areas where we can cooperate; there are areas where we will have differences, and we will be firm and open about those differences.

The Secretary also made clear that we have a One China Policy, and that we will follow the communiqués and our other obligations with regard to China, as well as our obligations to meet the defensive needs of Taiwan. So they had a broad discussion, I would say an initial discussion of US-China relationship as Ambassador Li goes back to Beijing to assume his new position.

Q: Did they discuss NMD or TMD?

MR. BOUCHER: Those came up, among other subjects briefly. No, it was really a broad range of things, so nothing was discussed in too much detail, but a number of topics came up.

Q: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: Just about a half hour.

Q: -- Security Enhancement Act?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that came up specifically. Obviously, the issue of Taiwan and arms sales did come up. The Chinese position, I think, is well known, and Secretary Powell, as he said in his hearing, said that we would follow the communiqués, we believed in One China, but that we would also meet the obligations that we have, and the commitment to meet the legitimate defensive needs of Taiwan.

Q: Did North Korea come up?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so, no.

Q: Did he offer any guidance regarding what the US stance might be at the UN Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, it was broad. A lot of subjects came up. I don't think that in particular came up. The Secretary did make clear, as he did in his testimony, that we believe that China needed to follow the rule of law, that China needed to be, as he said in his testimony, be exposed to the powerful forces of free enterprise system and democracy. So he made clear that we would raise human rights issues with China, and we would raise them frankly.

Q: Richard, did the Secretary raise the attempted suicide in Tiananmen Square yesterday of Falun Gong members? And in addition, when Taiwan came up, did the Secretary elaborate on the Bush Administration plans to support or not to support the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I was just asked that. I don't think that came up specifically in terms of the act. You can see what he said in testimony on the subject.

As far as the issue of Falun Gong, yes, that was discussed. I'm not -- I don't think the events that were reported yesterday came up, but let me tell you what we know and what we don't know, I think, about that situation there.

I think we have all seen the reports that five practitioners of Falun Gong have immolated themselves in Tiananmen Square and that one has died. We don't have independent confirmation. We are certainly aware of the eyewitness accounts by journalists and news clips. We are certainly saddened by this incident. The actions that lead to such results are tragic for all the people involved, most directly those who are injured and their families.

We note the statements by Falun Gong spokesmen that Falun Gong teachings oppose violence and suicide. And I would renew our condemnation of China's crackdown on Falun Gong. I would call on China to release all those detained or imprisoned for peacefully exercising their internationally recognized rights to freedom of religion, freedom of belief and freedom of conscience.

Q: Was that the message that Secretary Powell delivered to Ambassador Li?

MR. BOUCHER: The message that Secretary Powell delivered was one of tolerance and rule of law.

Q: So he didn't specifically reiterate --

MR. BOUCHER: He didn't use the press guidance, no. But -- (laughter) -- it was a clear message of the need for tolerance and respect for law and the rights that people have along the same lines is what I said.

Q: Richard, did the Chinese ask the United States not to consider a sale to Taiwan of the Aegis cruisers?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to expand too much on this meeting. They went through a number of topics. None of them were handled in great detail. I think the Chinese position is known on the issue of Taiwan arms sales. You can certainly ask them.

I think the positions Secretary Powell stated in the meeting were the positions that he stated in his testimony, and that's the basic message of the meeting, that we realize there are issues, we are going to handle them in accordance with our obligations with the communiqués. China also needs to act in a way that we cooperate where we can and where we have our differences, we will be clear about those as well.

Q: Is this his first meeting with a foreign ambassador since he was sworn in?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, it was. It was his first one since he was sworn in. But the timing of this particular meeting was dictated more by Ambassador Li's departure than it was by any sort of strategic plan.

(end transcript excerpt)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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