Clinton, Jiang agree to future meetings
November 24, 1996
Web posted at: 8:45 p.m. EST (0145 GMT)
From Correspondent Wolf Blitzer
MANILA, Philippines (CNN) -- President Clinton agreed Sunday to swap visits with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, despite continuing concerns over human rights abuses in China.
The two presidents held their fourth meeting in four years on the eve of the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference. With China emerging as an economic superstar, Clinton defended his strategy of separating trade and human rights.
Officials said that Clinton would visit Beijing and Jiang would visit Washington in 1997 and 1998, although the order of these trips was not finally decided.
"We're doing the right thing to have this meeting," Clinton said as he stood with Jiang for reporters' cameras. A smiling Jiang agreed, saying this meeting was especially important because of the recent U.S. election.
No dates for the visits were announced, but they were to be scheduled over the next two years. They agreed that Vice President Al Gore would visit China during the first half of next year, to become the highest ranking U.S. official to visit that country since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
Later, during a meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, Clinton said he was looking forward to visiting China, and defended his decision.
"It was a good meeting, and I think that the next steps are appropriate," Clinton said.
But human rights activists quickly condemned Clinton's decision, and urged the U.S. Congress to reverse his course.
"The administration seems to have thrown away one of the few remaining sources of leverage to press for serious human rights improvements," said Mike Jendrzejczyk of Human Rights Watch Asia.
Senior U.S. officials said more is at stake in U.S.-Chinese relations than human rights.
"Human rights is very important. So is peace on the Korean peninsula, non-proliferation, trade and many other issues," said Winston Lord, Assistant Secretary of State, East Asian Affairs.
The officials also claim the policy of so-called engagement will result in other gains, including Chinese pressure on North Korea to drop its nuclear ambitions.
But critics said the Chinese government so far seems to have gotten the better of the deal -- dramatically increasing its already huge trade surplus with the U.S., while holding back on any significant improvement in human rights.
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