Bush keeping U.S. path to China open

WASHINGTON (AP) Former President Bush plans to travel to China next month even as some fellow Republicans are opposing a possible visit there by Hillary Rodham Clinton because of human rights conditions in China.

Bush plans to speak to a conference on food production.

His visit will coincide with the U.N. conference on women in China but he has no plans to take part in conference activities, spokesman Jim McGrath said.

On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole said it would be a mistake for Mrs. Clinton to attend the conference so long as China continues to detain Harry Wu, a dissident and naturalized American citizen who has been in custody since June.

Mrs. Clinton, who is honorary chairwoman of the official U.S. delegation to the conference, has not said whether she will attend.

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., also believes Mrs. Clinton should stay home. Both Dole and Lugar are seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

McGrath defended Bush's plans to visit China, pointing out that the former president is ''a private citizen going to attend a private-sector conference in Beijing. She is the sitting first lady of the United States. There is a big difference.'' He said Bush plans no meetings with Chinese officials while in Beijing.

McGrath added that Bush wants to stay out of the debate on whether Mrs. Clinton should go to Beijing.

The main purpose of Bush's Asia trip is to visit Vietnam, where he will attend a conference sponsored by Citibank. It will be the sixth such conference in Asia for Bush.

Bush served as chief U.S. envoy to China two decades ago. As president, he came under criticism from some Democrats who advocated a tough U.S. response to China's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Bush vetoed several congressional efforts to limit access of Chinese products to American markets.

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