Hoping to build momentum for closer U.S.-China relations, President Clinton may visit Beijing in June - five months earlier than first planned, an administration official said Thursday.
"There is a desire on our part" to schedule the visit for early summer, "but whether the Chinese have agreed to that I don't know," said the official, insisting on anonymity.In Tokyo on Thursday, former President Jimmy Carter told a Japanese parliamentary committee that Clinton was likely to visit China in June and stop in Japan on his way home, Japan's Foreign Ministry said.
The New York Times reported that the 10-day trip likely will take place in the last week of June and first week of July - after the Paula Jones sexual misconduct trial scheduled to begin May 27 in Little Rock, Ark. Clinton could be called to testify in his defense.
The trial has nothing to do with rescheduling the China trip, the Times reported, citing administration officials. Jones contends she was denied proper raises and career advancement after she refused Clinton's solicitation for sex in 1991 at a Little Rock hotel. Clinton has denied the accusations.
The administration is eager to build on the momentum of a series of high-level visits to China by U.S. officials over the past year. Clinton's visit would be the first by an American president since the disruption in U.S.-China ties following the massacre of civilians in Tiananmen Square in June 1989.
The Times said Chinese officials are enthusiastic at the prospect of an earlier Clinton visit.
The administration official who confirmed the intent to reschedule Clinton's trip told The Associated Press there is a desire not to lose the momentum gained by President Jiang Zemin's visit to the United States last October. In those meetings, Clinton accepted Jiang's invitation to make a reciprocal visit.
The Times reported the White House is concerned that relations with China have deteriorated in recent months, particularly over disagreements about U.N. policy toward Iraq. China has opposed U.S. threats to use military force against Iraq.
The House, meanwhile, has approved a bill intended to spur economic growth in 48 sub-Saharan nations of Africa.
In addition to promoting economic self-reliance for African countries, the legislation approved Wednesday by a 233-186 vote would allow the president to determine eligibility of specific nations to participate in broader U.S economic and financial aid programs.
"We made a first step toward replacing aid with trade, with starting Africa on the road to catching up with other regions of the world in economic development," said Rep. Phil Crane, R-Ill., chairman of the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee.
The House action came as President Clinton added Rwanda to the list of African nations he will visit this month.
Clinton leaves Washington on March 22 for a 12-day trip to five African nations - Botswana, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda. He will be the first U.S. president to visit those countries and the first president to visit sub-Saharan Africa since Jimmy Carter in April 1978.
Rwanda was added to the itinerary to demonstrate "the importance the United States attaches to efforts to resolve the conflicts there that have led to genocide," said White House spokesman Mike McCurry.