Clinton calls Chinese president with apology
May 14, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke with Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Friday morning, offering personal apologies for the NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia, administration officials told CNN.
White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said it was a "very constructive" conversation in which the president voiced "regrets and condolences" for the embassy bombing. In addition to discussing the Kosovo crisis, Clinton stressed his view that broader relations between the United States and China should not be damaged by the recent events, Lockhart and other officials said.
In the half-hour telephone call, Clinton made clear he was determined to move forward with talks aimed at generating U.S. support for China's entry into the World Trade Organization.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said Thursday the bombing had cast a cloud over the WTO talks, but China still wanted to join.
Clinton has also offered his apologies for the bombing in a private letter to Jiang. The president and other U.S. officials have also offered public statements of regret for the attack, which killed three Chinese journalists.
NATO called the bombing in Belgrade a tragic error caused by outdated maps. Angry Chinese staged three days of violent, government-sanctioned protests outside the U.S. and British embassies in Beijing and consulates elsewhere in China after the attack.
China also cut off a human rights dialogue with the United States and froze military exchanges.
The United States and NATO allies need China's support to get a possible peace agreement through the U.N. Security Council, but Beijing has said it won't begin talks on the question until NATO stops its air campaign.
White House Correspondent John King and Reuters contributed to this report.
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