Powell Departs China After Progress

Colin Powell and Chinese President Jiang Zemin share a joke during meeting in Beijing 7/28/01
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell left China on Sunday morning, after a day of bilateral meetings with top Chinese officials to discuss concerns about missiles proliferation, human rights issues and arms sales to Taiwan.

Powell says he narrowed differences with China over Beijing's military exports, while giving them assurances Saturday that the planned U.S. missile defense system does not pose a threat to China.

Powell met with China's president and premier, among others.

CBS News correspondent Barry Peterson reports that Powell accomplished his main goals: To get past the confrontations that marked the first months of the Bush administration and steer the relationship in a friendlier direction.

Although outstanding issues remain, Powell told a news conference after meetings with Chinese leaders that he "was able to move the ball forward" on U.S. concerns about Chinese missile and weapons technology exports.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Sun Yuxi, said in a subsequent news conference that China has been making an earnest effort to comply with its obligations, outlined in a U.S.-China nonproliferation agreement signed in November.

Sun contended that the United States has failed to comply with its commitments - an apparent reference to the absence of cooperation on commercial satellite launches.

Powell said there were still problems to be resolved before the United States could look at licensing some satellite sales that were on the table with China, including disagreements about contracts that had been signed before last November and specific transfers. He gave no details.

In the exports accord, Beijing promised not to sell missiles or components to countries developing nuclear weapons.

The agreement was a breakthrough because it addressed U.S. concerns over suspected Chinese assistance to Pakistan, Iran and North Korea. But Powell has called Chinese cooperation mixed.

Powell said there was a need for expert consultations to iron out differences on these transfers. "We' holding experts' talks on non-proliferation matters, " he said.

Powell said he offered assurances to China that the missile defense system planned by the Bush administration would be limited. He said it would not threaten the strategic deterrent of either China or Russia.

Powell met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin in an ornate reception room in the Great Hall of the People. He also met with Premier Zhu Rongji, Vice Prime Minister Qian Qichen and Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan.

Both sides said the relationship was now on the right track after resolution of cases involving two scholars with U.S. links. American officials said the scholars were wrongfully convicted on charges of spying for Taiwan.

China released the two on Thursday, removing an irritant that had cast a shadow over Saturday's visit by Powell, his first since becoming secretary of state.

Powell said he insistently urged the Chinese leaders to reorm the legal system to reduce abuses against the innocent.

"I don't think that message was missed by my interlocutors," he said.

Powell said he conveyed a message from President Bush that that "he wants to build forward-looking relations" with China.

Correspondent Peterson says the talks were meant to lay the groundwork for a planned visit by President Bush in October.

Sun said the planned visit "offers the historic opportunity for sustained and healthy development of relations in the new century."

Peterson says Washington is particularly anxious to smooth its relationship with Beijing in light of China's likely entry into the World Trade Organization, perhaps by the end of the year. China's vast market is eagerly sought by U.S. companies, Peterson points out.

Powell and Sun cited a series of consultations that lie ahead as evidence of a more robust bilateral relationship. The two countries will hold talks on such issues as human rights, nonproliferation, commercial ties and ways to avoid a repeat of the April 1 spy plane incident.

Powell raised the possibility that military-to-military contacts, suspended after the spy plane incident, will be resumed, possibly in a modified form.

On Taiwan, Powell defended the U.S. military sales to the island. "It gives them the confidence they need to engage with China," he said.

Powell said he also raised concerns about what he said was a Chinese military buildup across the Taiwan Strait. In response, he said the Chinese side denied there was any such buildup.

Son implied that the continued U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are in violation of a 1982 agreement that provides for a gradual reduction of those deals, leading ultimately to their end.

Powell made his visit to China as part of an Asian tour. His next stop is Australia where he will be joined by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for talks on diplomatic and security issues.

He returns home from his five-day Asia-Pacific tour on Tuesday.

© MMI, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and Reuters Limited contributed to this report