In the first official visit to the United States by China's foreign minister since the crushing of the pro-democracy movement in June 1989, President Bush glossed over the issue of human rights Friday and focused on common opposition to Iraqi aggression.
"I'm always inclined to emphasize the positive - and there are many positive and very important aspects of this relationship, very important. And not the least of which is that China and the United States have made common ground in terms of standing up against aggression," said Bush.The Bush meeting with Qian Qichen followed a session between the foreign diplomat and Secretary of State James Baker where the two agreed that "no stone should be left unturned" in efforts to solve the gulf crisis peacefully.
According to a State Department statement, Qian said China agreed with Bush's decision to send Baker to Baghdad to talk with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Qian's visit followed by one day the passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, if that option is deemed necessary. China abstained from voting on the resolution.
China had voted with the United States on 11 earlier resolutions condemning the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
The visit by Qian drew strong protest from Asia Watch, a organization concerned with human-rights issues.
In a letter to Baker, Asia Watch said: "The invitation, which in effect ends the U.S. ban on high-level contacts with China, comes at a time when repression in the People's Republic of China is not lessening but, in fact, seems to be intensifying."
At the White House, Bush said he thought "the Chinese government knows that we have some differences on this whole broad question of human rights, but we have many things in common."
Bush added that the Chinese probably also had some problems with U.S. actions, but he added, "We've worked very closely in the broad concept of stopping aggression and, of course, that is something that we have in common with this very important country."
The State Department stressed that Baker had met Qian four times since the Tienamen Square crackdown and announced that two senior U.S. officials, Richard Schifter and Reginald Bartholomew, will make separate trips to China "in the near future" to discuss human rights and concerns about the spread of nuclear technology.