China drops plan to sell reactors to Iran

The Associated Press

NEW YORK čIn another sign of improved U.S.-Chinese relations, China is dropping plans to sell two nuclear reactors to Iran, Foreign Minister Qian Qichen said yesterday.

The announcement reflected a far more conciliatory tone from Beijing in recent weeks. At the start of a meeting with Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Qian also backed away from from his government's harsh reaction to the unofficial U.S. visit of Taiwan's president last summer.

But the more friendly dialogue did not result in the announcement of a meeting this October between President Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Such an announcement was widely expected.

''Having a summit meeting and where it would take place is still under discussion,'' said a senior administration official, who discussed the Christopher-Qian meeting only on condition he not be identified by name.

The official said the Qian ''made it clear that the Iran reactor deal would not be implemented.''

The United States has been pressuring Russia, so far without success, to cancel a contract to build nuclear power plants in Iran. The U.S. position is that the sale of any nuclear technology, even for civilian power generation, could have dangerous consequences.

He welcomed the Chinese decision but added: ''I'm not saying this clears up every possible problem'' regarding Chinese dealings with Iran. The Beijing government is also suspected of selling missile parts to Iran as well as to Pakistan. If proven, that would result in cutting off U.S. assistance to China.

The official also said Qian delivered a letter from Jiang to Clinton. He refused to discuss its contents but said it had ''a constructive tone.''

At the opening of the nearly two-hour meeting, both Christopher and Qian emphasized the recent improvement of relations between the U.S. and China.

U.S.-Chinese relations deteriorated sharply after the Clinton administration allowed Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui to attend a reunion at his alma mater, Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., in June.

The Beijing government withdrew its ambassador from Washington and abruptly canceled a number of bilateral meetings. China demanded that the United States promise never to allow another visit by Lee.

But when asked if China was holding to that hard line, Qian replied that his government was confident that ''the U.S. side will handle this question with great prudence in the future.''

For the first time, he expressed acceptance of repeated U.S. assurances that it is pursuing a one-China policy under which Taiwan is considered part of the republic.

Qian said the United States ''has stated it would continue to pursue a one-China policy,'' recognizing the People's Republic of China ''as the sole legal government of China.''

He also noted U.S. opposition to independence for Taiwan or its admittance into the United Nations.

''We appreciate these statements,'' he said.

''Sometimes we've had differences,'' said Christopher. ''Sometimes we've had quite profound disagreements on issues like human rights.''

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