Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) began a whirlwind two-day visit to Washington on Tuesday with a blowup over human rights in a meeting with members of the House of Representatives, an extensive rehashing of Beijing's Taiwan policy with key senators and a dinner meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell that was expected to be little more than a gala get-acquainted session.
Meanwhile, senior administration officials, discussing the Hu visit, said that President George W. Bush will point out that while the US is committed to protecting Taiwan, arms sales to Taiwan hinge on the level of the Chinese military threat to Taiwan. When the threat subsides, so will the military relationship between Washington and Taiwan, the officials said.
Hu arrived in Washington late Tuesday morning from New York City and quickly engaged in meetings on Capitol Hill with members of the Senate and the House.
In a 40-minute meeting with more than a dozen key senators, Taiwan was the "major issue" Hu raised, according to Senator Sam Brownback, a member or the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"It was basically the standard line that he put forward, and that was his major issue raised," Brownback said of the session headed by majority leader Thomas Daschle and minority leader Trent Lott.
While the question of US weapons sales did not come up, Brownback said, the congressmen stressed that "we do not want the PRC to be threatening Taiwan. Taiwan should be allowed to develop as it sees fit," he said.
There was little time for the lawmakers to respond to Hu's comments, Brownback said. "People were willing to listen, but it's pretty much standard party line that he put forward, the party line we've heard for years," said Brownback, who called Hu an "impressive man."
Things turned ugly on the other side of the Capitol as Hu met a half dozen house members, headed by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who pressed Hu on human rights.
Minority whip Nancy Pelosi, and other House human rights leaders tried unsuccessfully to present Hu with letters from groups of congressmen protesting the detention of political prisoners and Tibetan leaders. Hu silently refused to accept the letters, the congressmen said, setting up a tense confrontation.
"They completely shut us down when the subject of human rights came up," Pelosi said.
"This is an indictment of their dictatorship," Representative Christopher Smith said.
"This will reverberate throughout the halls of Congress," said Representative Tom Lantos, head of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.
Meanwhile, senior administration officials said that a resumption of cross-strait dialogue is "an important first step toward the eventual resolution" of cross-strait issues.
"The president has consistently said that what we seek is the peaceful solution of the differences between the people on the two sides of the Strait," senior officials told reporters during a briefing on the Hu visit. "We do not want to see provocation from either side of the Strait."