SCMP Saturday, September 9, 2000

Clinton urges Jiang to open negotiations on Taiwan issue


US President Bill Clinton appealed for urgent dialogue between Beijing and Taipei in his first face-to-face meeting with President Jiang Zemin in more than a year.
Going into the talks on the fringes of the UN Millennium Summit yesterday, US officials said Mr Clinton was keen to make clear that he saw no possible settlement on the Taiwan question unless both sides could meet. ''The discussions will be very wide-ranging, but everything is going to be underpinned by the need to eventually solve the Taiwan question for the wider benefit of all,'' said one.
Mr Clinton's fresh appeal came as other recent peace efforts in the Middle East now appear out of his reach before he leaves office in January. The longer-than-expected meeting took place at New York's opulent Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue. Unless the pair meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Brunei in November, it will be their last formal discussion while Mr Clinton is President.
Mr Jiang was expected to reiterate he was willing to go to Taipei for talks, but only if Taiwanese leaders accept the one-China policy. He was also planning to reaffirm China's warnings over US missile defence proposals, while expressing anger at US intervention to block a sale of hi-tech battle management systems from Israel.
Mr Jiang has dropped planned references to the missile defences from his public statements during the Millennium Summit, but would be making the case firmly in private, Chinese officials said. Mr Clinton delayed deployment of a limited system last week a decision that will now be faced by his successor.
''We see the threat of an arms race as a serious threat to regional and international security,'' one Chinese official said before the meeting started. ''Overall, we are confident of a wide-ranging and warm meeting, reflecting the solid basis to Sino-US relations,'' he said.
The pair were expected to disagree over the human rights issue. Despite expressions of geniality between the two leaders, the summit has underscored how far apart the US and China remain.
Mr Clinton has used the session to call for a ''new age'' of protective peacekeeping, while Mr Jiang has stood steadfast behind more traditional UN values of non-interference. Together with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, Mr Jiang has battled to shore up the role of the troubled UN Security Council as a forum to settle major international conflicts.