Although China's leaders pledged to prevent the intrusion of politics in the 11th Asian Games in Beijing, statecraft and intrigue are apparently a main event for the host officials. Beijing issued an arrest order last week for 21 Chinese who have allegedly threatened to disrupt the Games, which end Oct. 7.

The fugitives went into hiding after allegedly writing threatening letters to the Beijing Asian Games Organizing Committee and China's leaders, according to a Chinese source close to the security apparatus.

Beijing has sought to revive its international prestige through the Games. It is apparently using the event to coax Asian states into renewing relations that were downgraded after the massacre of democracy activists last year.

High-ranking officials from across Asia - including former Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita and Japan's Education Minister Kosuke Hori - watched the ceremony with many of China's leaders.

Tokyo has characterized Mr. Hori's visit as unofficial. At the same time, it says China should not be further isolated, citing Beijing's support for United Nations sanctions against Iraq - which was barred from the Games - and for a UN peace plan in Cambodia.

The most conspicuous foreign guest was Vo Nguyen Giap, vice prime minister of Vietnam, making the first publicly acknowledged visit to China by a high-level official from Vietnam since the two countries fought a border war in 1979.

Asian and Western diplomats say Hanoi and Beijing are likely to improve ties gradually now that Cambodia's four warring factions have formed a interim council pending the election of a new government.

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