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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

USIS Washington File

11 June 1998


(Discusses his upcoming visit there)  (890)
By Wendy S. Ross
USIA White House Correspondent
Washington -- President Clinton says his policy of engagement with the
People's Republic of China is "the right thing to do" for the United
States and the world.
"Choosing isolation over engagement would not make the world safer, it
would make it more dangerous," he said in a speech at the headquarters
of the National Geographic Society June 11. "Bringing China into the
community of nations rather than trying to shut it out is plainly the
best way to advance both our interests and our values."
In what was clearly an effort to explain why he feels his upcoming
June 24-July 3 trip to China is so important, Clinton said such
contacts are the best way to encourage China to move toward openness,
free markets, political pluralism and the rule of law. "That kind of
China rather than one turned inward and confrontational, is profoundly
in our interests," he said. "That kind of China can help to shape a
21st century that is the most peaceful and prosperous era the world
has ever known."
Clinton acknowledged that there is "serious disagreement" within the
United States over what national policy toward China should be.
"Some Americans believe we should try to isolate and contain China
because of its undemocratic system and human rights violations and in
order to retard its capacity to become America's next great enemy," he
said. "Some believe increased commercial dealings alone will
inevitably lead to a more open, more democratic China."
His administration, he said, has chosen a course which he called "both
principled and pragmatic: expanding our areas of cooperation with
China while dealing forthrightly with our differences." He said this
approach has been endorsed by key US allies in the region, including
Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
Clinton said this policy helped convince China to release from jail
two prominent dissidents, Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan, and Catholic
Bishop Zeng from prison during the past year and announce its
intention to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political
The President also addressed critics who have urged him not to
participate in any official ceremony at Tiananmen Square, site of the
June 3-4, 1989 massacre of unarmed Chinese students demonstrating for
democratic reforms.
"Some have suggested I should refuse to take part in this traditional
ceremony," he said, believing "that somehow going there would absolve
the Chinese government of its responsibility for the terrible killings
at Tiananmen Square nine years ago, or indicate that America is no
longer concerned about such conduct. They are wrong.
"Protocol and honoring a nation's traditional practices should not be
confused with principle," he said. "We do not ignore the value of
symbols. But, in the end, if the choice is between making a symbolic
point and making a real difference, I choose to make the difference.
And when it comes to advancing human rights and religious freedom,
dealing directly and speaking honestly to the Chinese is clearly the
best way to make a difference."
He emphasized that in his discussions with President Jiang Zemin and
other Chinese leaders and his statements to the Chinese people he
"will press ahead on human rights and religious freedom, urging that
China follow through on its intention to sign the Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights, that it release more individuals in prison for
expressing their opinions, that it take concrete steps to preserve
Tibet's cultural, linguistic, and religious heritage."
Clinton said that he has told "President Jiang that when it comes to
human rights and religious freedom, China remains on the wrong side of
The President said the US message to Chinese authorities "remains
strong and constant: Do not arrest people for their political beliefs.
Release those who are in jail for that reason. Renounce coercive
population control practices. Resume your dialogue with the Dalai
Lama. Allow people to worship when, where, and how they choose. And
recognize that our relationship simply cannot reach its full potential
so long as Chinese people are denied fundamental human rights." He
noted that to promote that message, the US government is strengthening
Radio Free Asia, and working to expand the rule of law and civil
society programs within China.
Clinton stressed the crucial role China could play in addressing many
of the major issues confronting the world today. He said that what
China decides on issues such as weapons of mass destruction,
international crime and drug trafficking, the environment, human
rights, and regional issues "will powerfully shape the next century."
He said he will continue to press China to impose "stronger controls
on the sale of missiles, missile technology, dual-use products, and
chemical and biological weapons" because "that it is in China's
interest," since "the spread of weapons and technologies would
increasingly destabilize areas near China's own borders."
Clinton also pointed out that China could be an important factor in
convincing India and Pakistan to exercise restraint in the wake of
their nuclear tests, and that it has helped the United States
"convince North Korea to freeze its dangerous nuclear program, playing
a constructive role in the four-party peace talks."
He also said the United States is working with the Chinese to fight
international drug trafficking and to solve their serious
environmental problems.

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