Bush Hosts Chinese Leader

Chinese President Jiang Zemin arrives at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2002.
AP
President Bush is hosting Chinese President Jiang Zemin at his Texas ranch Friday, with North Korea's nuclear ambitions atop the agenda.

Earlier this month, North Korea admitted its secret nuclear weapons program, and Mr. Bush is seeking Jiang's help in getting it shut down.

U.S. officials also expect Mr. Bush to bring up Iraq, human rights and trade during the visit, which includes lunch and a tour of the 1,600-acre spread west of Waco.

This is a farewell trip for Jiang, who's expected to step down soon as China's Communist Party boss and move to a lesser but still undefined role in the Chinese hierarchy.

Jiang can look to improved ties with the United States as a major achievement of his 13-year rule. Still, U.S. officials wonder whether China will be willing to use its economic leverage over North Korea to encourage it to rethink its nuclear weapons program.

The administration believes economic pressure from a variety of countries is a possible key to easing the perceived dangers created by the North's nuclear activities. The United States has been providing North Korea with more than 500,000 tons a year of heavy oil as part of an international energy assistance program. The administration has not said whether it will halt these shipments.

Washington has demanded an immediate and visible dismantling of the North's nuclear facilities, suggesting that it is not interested in bargaining with Pyongyang over the issue.

North Korea said early Friday that it wanted a "nonaggression treaty" with the United States, but warned it was entitled to possess nuclear weapons as long as it felt threatened by the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

In response, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said: "Our position with respect to disarmament of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction is clear."

As a followup to his Friday talks with Jiang, Mr. Bush will meet on Saturday with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung.

That meeting will be on the sidelines of the annual summit meeting of 21 Pacific rim leaders in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Mr. Bush will spend most of Saturday and Sunday at the summit.

Sino-American relations have come a long way since the opening months of the Bush presidency when a collision between an U.S. reconnaissance plane and a Chinese jet not far from the Chinese coast sent relations reeling.

U.S. defense officials said Thursday high-level bilateral military talks could resume as early December. They were suspended last year after the April 2001 air collision.

The plan to resume talks was among a handful of agreements officials expected from Mr. Bush's talks with Jiang, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer declined to say whether there would be any agreements reached Friday.

The White House expects Jiang to agree to work with the United States on the North Korea situation, a senior administration official said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Thursday the opening of an FBI office in Beijing — a step meant to strengthen U.S.-Chinese cooperation in fighting terrorism and international crime.

In addition, the State Department announced Thursday that the United States and China will hold discussions on human rights issues for the first time in a year.

Taiwan remains a sore point in China's relations with the United States but the two sides have been less vocal about their differences than before. Jiang was expected to raise concerns about American weapons sales to Taiwan and was likely to hear Mr. Bush's objections to China's missile deployments across from Taiwan.

The administration also is concerned about a perceived Chinese role in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction but officials say China has take steps recently to ease those concerns.