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Albright says China's Jiang 'a reformer'


Top U.S. diplomat defends engagement policy

October 26, 1997
Web posted at: 6:46 p.m. EST (2346 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As the first visit by a Chinese leader in 12 years got under way Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright offered a defense of the United States' policy of "engagement" with China.

Appearing on NBC's "Meet The Press," America's top diplomat called Chinese President Jiang Zemin "a reformer."

"That is where we have to pick up -- the extent to which he and this leadership is interested in pursuing reform in China," Albright said.

Critics have attacked the Clinton administration's decision to move forward with trade relations despite U.S. misgivings over China's human rights record.

"China is a huge country that has tremendous influence regionally and globally. It is there for us to have a strategic relationship with. It is in our national security interest to have a dialogue with them on issues of mutual concern," she said.

"An important part here, for us, is to engage China but not endorse everything that they're doing."

Jiang is expected to meet with protests on every step of his U.S. tour. In her remarks Sunday, Albright indicated that she does not see that as negative.

"(Jiang) will not have a totally fuzzy time at these places. I think that it is important for him, actually, to see where our liberty comes from," she said.

While Albright said human rights is only one component of the relationship between the United States and China, she termed the human rights issue as "central" to U.S. policy.

"We will never have a completely normal relationship with them until they have a better human rights policy," she said.

One issue the United States will be reviewing closely is China's assurances that it is ending nuclear cooperation with Iran. If that turns out to be true, President Bill Clinton could certify China as cooperating on non-proliferation, and that would open the way for the United States to sell nuclear power reactors to China.

"I can assure you that we will not be selling (reactors) until we feel that we have clear and unequivocal assurances," Albright said.

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