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Bush set to discuss Taiwan, human rights

Bush and Jiang
Jiang and Bush will meet in Beijing when the U.S. president visits on February 21  

Willy Wo-Lap Lam
CNN Senior China Analyst

(CNN) -- Beijing and Washington have sparred over Taiwan and human rights just days before President George W. Bush is about to arrive in the Chinese capital.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has protested over American plans to sell Kidd-class destroyers to Taiwan as well as to help the island secure submarines.

China firmly opposes U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, including destroyers and submarines, the official media on Sunday quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying.

Last week, the Pentagon said it would deliver four Kidd-class destroyers to Taiwan next year and help Taipei acquire eight diesel-powered submarines.

While the agreement for the sale of the destroyers had been signed early last year, the delivery was earlier than expected.

In interviews with Chinas state CCTV and Xinhua news agency before starting his three-nation Asian tour, Bush said Washington would continue to abide by the one-China policy.

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The U.S. wishes to establish positive, frank and sincere relations with China, CCTV quoted Bush as saying.

Taiwan is a touchy problem in U.S.-China relations, but it is not sensitive enough to affect the U.S. and China carrying on good and frank dialogue.

Diplomatic analysts said Bush did not repeat his earlier statement that the U.S. would do whatever it takes to defend Taiwan if it were attacked by the mainland.

However, he also made no reference to former president Bill Clintons 'three nos policy' on Taiwan, meaning American opposition to Taiwan independence, to one China, one Taiwan and to Taiwan joining global bodies requiring statehood for membership.

The analysts said the Taiwan issue would be played up by Bush's host, President Jiang Zemin, even though Bush would prefer to concentrate on the anti-terrorist campaign.

Religious freedom

U.S. officials have indicated Bush would also raise human rights matters, including Beijing's alleged persecution of underground religious organizations.

The officials said Bush might bring up the issue of the few dozen Western Falun Gong activists who were expelled by Beijing after a protest at Tiananmen Square last Thursday.

The U.S. team would also likely urge Beijing to release the two mainlanders who were jailed alongside Hong Kong businessman and bible smuggler Li Guangqiang.

Li was earlier this month released on medical bail by Fujian province officials in what was seen as Beijings effort to improve the atmosphere of Bushs visit.

However, senior cadres including National Peoples Congress Li Peng have criticized Western countries for using the question of human rights to interfere in Chinas internal affairs.

Bush is scheduled to hold talks with Jiang immediately after arriving in Beijing late Thursday morning.

On Friday, he will deliver a speech at Tsinghua University and meet with Premier Zhu Rongji before wrapping up his Asian tour.




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