Beijing wants less Taiwan tensions, says Colin Powell

CANBERRA, Australia, AP

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday that mainland China, eager for strong U.S. relations, wants to keep tensions over Taiwan at a minimum and also to avoid a repeat of the April 1 spy plane incident.

Arriving in the Australian capital after talks with mainland Chinese leaders in Beijing, Powell said Beijing has cut back on aggressive pursuit tactics that led to the midair collision four months ago off the Chinese coast. The incident severely strained U.S. relations with mainland China for months.

Powell said Beijing’ conciliatory posture reflects the importance those leaders attach to close ties with Washington, primarily because of the crucial U.S. role in the mainland’s economic development.

“They have every incentive to put it (the relationship) back on the right track with us,” he said, noting that 40 percent of mainland China’s exports go to the United States.

Powell is on the last leg of a five-nation tour of Asia-Pacific countries that concludes Monday with talks on security issues. Joining him in Australia is Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

While the two sides are supposed to hold annual discussions, there were no meetings in 2000, and Powell said it was doubly important that they take place this year. Australia has been a defense treaty ally for 50 years.

On Saturday, Powell met with mainland Chinese President Jiang Zemin and other top leaders. The two sides agreed to hold consultations on trade, human rights and Beijing’s exports of sensitive technology, among other issues.

On Taiwan, Powell summed up the attitude of mainland China’s leaders by saying: “Let’s not let this situation get out of control. Let’s talk to each other. Let’s consult and make sure everybody understands the volatility of the Taiwan issue.”

The secretary registered concern with the leaders over what he described as a mainland Chinese military buildup across from Taiwan. He said Chinese officials denied any such activity.

The United States has a keen interest in Taiwan because a Beijing-Taipei conflict can lead to U.S. military involvement on Taiwan’s behalf.

In 1996, mainland China fired missiles across the Taiwan Strait toward Taiwan. As a result, the United States to send two aircraft carriers to the area.