U.S. tries to restore ties with China
Envoy visits Beijing to discuss embassy bombing
June 16, 1999
BEIJING (CNN) -- With the U.S. Embassy in Beijing still scarred by last month's anti-American protests, Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering met with Chinese officials Wednesday, hoping charts and photographs would convince them that the NATO bombing of China's embassy in Belgrade was unintentional.
Most Chinese citizens agree with President Jiang Zemin, who denounced the May 7 attack as deliberate. NATO and the Clinton administration deny that, blaming the blunder on the use of outdated maps.
The bombing killed three Chinese journalists and injured 20 other people.
There was no immediate word on whether Pickering's mission was successful. He is to return to Washington on Thursday.
What's at stake?
A credible pitch by the envoy could be crucial in reversing deteriorating U.S.-Chinese relations.
Since the bombing, Beijing has postponed military contacts and suspended talks on trade, arms control and human rights until Washington meets demands for redress.
China's foreign trade minister vowed again Tuesday to put off restarting talks on joining the World Trade Organization until Washington gives a satisfactory account of the bombing.
"The negotiations will be continued only if the good and friendly atmosphere reappears," Shi Guangsheng was quoted as saying in Wednesday's China Daily, a state-run newspaper.
Using slides and diagrams, Pickering was to have laid out "a pretty thorough" account of how NATO target planners mistook the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade for a Yugoslav military procurement center, said a Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Before the meeting, Pickering consulted with his team of defense and intelligence experts and officials at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Paint and ink still mar the facade of the building, and there are shattered windows caused by tens of thousands of irate protesters.
The U.S. envoy planned to make no public statements while in Beijing, and reporters were kept away by Chinese security as Pickering returned to his hotel later in the day.
Pickering had been scheduled to meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan and his deputy, Yang Jiechi.
The Chinese media gave no hint of how their leaders had responded.
China made four demands after the bombing -- an apology, a full investigation, publication of the findings and punishment of those responsible.
China already has acknowledged apologies by U.S. President Bill Clinton, and U.S. officials said they hoped Pickering's detailed report would satisfy the second and third demands.
But calls for Washington to pin blame on individuals seemed the most difficult to fulfill, particularly in light of anger in Congress over allegations that China has been stealing American nuclear missile secrets for two decades.
Offering too much information to Beijing could play into the hands of congressmen who argue that the White House policy of engagement with China is compromising national security.
China has denied the spying allegations.
Beijing Bureau Chief Rebecca MacKinnon contributed to this report.
China says U.S. nuclear information not secret
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