`Candid' US-Sino missile talks end after single day


Sat, Aug 25, 2001 - Page 1

US-Sino talks centering on suspicions China has broken a pledge to halt exports of nuclear-capable missiles and components were officially halted yesterday after just one day of seemingly unprofitable discussions.

"The talks are over," said a US embassy spokesman in Beijing, adding that both sides had kept open the option of continuing the meeting yesterday but decided not to.

US and Chinese experts met Thursday in Beijing following recent US media reports a Chinese state firm had sent missile components to Pakistan, in apparent violation of an agreement clinched late last year.

US officials here and in Washington said that "additional work" was needed for Washington to be satisfied China would stick to the accord thrashed out in November of last year.

"We have not yet been fully satisfied in our discussions about that," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said late Thursday, adding the talks were "candid" -- a term often applied in diplomatic circles to difficult or combative discussions.

Paul Harris, associate professor of politics at Hong Kong's Lingnan University, said it was difficult to see a quick solution being reached on the issue given the broader issues bedevilling relations such as US arms sales to Taiwan.

"The US seems to think China has violated this agreement, but China in turn sees the matter from its own very particularist perspective. It might think that while the US accuses it of weapons proliferation, the US is itself proliferating weapons to Taiwan in violation of another tacit agreement."

He added, "These particular problems between the US and China are caught up in much broader issues, which makes them difficult to solve."

Recent intelligence leaks on the issue have heaped domestic political pressure on President George W. Bush as he prepares to visit Shanghai and Beijing in October.

Beijing rejected a report in the Washington Times this month that one of its state-owned firms sent 12 batches of missile components to Pakistan as "baseless." Pakistan also denied the report.

The US team, led by senior State Department diplomat Vann Van Diepen, was expected to return to Washington to assess how the issue can be moved forward before Bush's visit.