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U.S., China renew military ties eight months after bombing of Chinese embassy in Belgrade


January 26, 2000
Web posted at: 6:22 PM EST (2322 GMT)

From Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A top Chinese general met with U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen on Wednesday, the first such high-level meeting since the United States apologized for what it insists was the accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade last May.

This was the third and final day of meetings between senior U.S. officials and Lt. Gen. Xiong Guangkai, who is deputy chief of staff and intelligence director of the People's Liberation Army. He also met Monday with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Hugh Shelton, and Tuesday with CIA Director George Tenet.

Senior U.S. officials said the talks could pave the way for a visit by Cohen to China later this year and possibly a reciprocal visit to Washington by Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian. Cohen last visited Beijing in January 1998 and was scheduled to travel to China again last June, but the trip was called off after U.S. B-2 bombers bombed the Chinese embassy by mistake.

Cohen was scheduled to spend 30 minutes with Gen. Xiong on Wednesday afternoon.

China tomorrow


Pentagon officials described the talks as "very productive" and said they covered a wide range of global, regional and bilateral issues on which the U.S. and China don't see eye-to-eye, such as North Korea, U.S. missile defense and Taiwan security.

One senior official told CNN, "The talks are to help us get a better idea of how we can craft a relationship that is not based on sweetness and light, but on the idea the world will be a better place if we can work together."

Mostly, Xiong has met with a team of Pentagon officials, headed by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Walter Slocombe, who is tentatively scheduled to brief reporters on the outcome of the meetings at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

While at the Pentagon, Xiong was given a full briefing on U.S. plans to develop a national missile defense. U.S. officials stressed the system is being designed to defend against small-scale attack from rogue nations or to guard against an accidental launch of ballistic missiles, and is not intended to neutralize China's small but growing nuclear arsenal.

One embarrassing incident during Xiong's visit occurred Monday. One of the cars in his motorcade was stuck by a security barrier that was raised accidentally as the car was passing over it. No one was hurt, and Xiong was not in the car which was hit.

On Tuesday, the Chinese delegation took the subway to the Pentagon instead of driving. U.S. officials say that was because of the heavy snow in Washington, not because of the problem with the security barrier.

A Pentagon official said he did not think the subject of the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade came up during the talks. "I think that's behind us," he told CNN.

In December, the United States agreed to pay China $28 million in compensation for the embassy bombing.

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