Powell in China


The US Secretary of State, Mr Colin Powell, has ended his official visit to China in optimistic mood. His task was to set in motion the means to end the tension in relations between the two countries stemming from the bombing by NATO of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and the capture of an American aircraft that was spying on Chinese military facilities.

Mr Powell expressed confidence that much of this task had been achieved and that further strengthening of relations was now possible. "We are not enemies and are not looking for enemies - we are looking for ways to co-operate," he said.

The US wished to impress upon China that its sales of missile technology to Pakistan were in breach of a US-China agreement signed last year. It also wanted the Chinese to use their influence on the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il, who is developing missiles that might in time be capable of striking at the US.

Kim Jong-Il, who is afflicted with a fear of flying, is at present in the course of a long overland journey by armoured train from Pyongyang to Moscow for talks with the Russian president Mr Vladimir Putin. The subject of the upcoming Moscow talks - the proposed US Ballistic Missile Defence Programme - is one that has exercised the minds of Mr Powell and the Chinese officials he spoke to in Beijing in the course of his two-day visit.

Mr Powell indicated in advance it was his intention to convince Beijing that US plans to build a missile shield were not directed at China but rather at the activities of "rogue states" such as North Korea and Iraq. There are some indications that, whatever about his successes in other spheres, he did not succeed in this part of his mission.

The official China Daily was blunt in its appraisal: "The Bush administration's China policy is, in fact, very clear," it wrote, "their goal is to contain China in the military field and to co-operate on bilateral economic issues." Mr Powell's reaffirmation of support for the "one-China" policy which confirms Taiwan as a Chinese island, will have laid the groundwork for the two concrete successes of his visit. Agreement by China to resume dialogue on human rights will be globally welcomed as will its commitment to hold expert discussions on the transfer of its missile technology to other countries. A suitable climate is now in place for further progress during President Bush's Chinese visit in October.