US and China Agree to Pursue Rights Talks

PRESSURING China on one of its most bitter issues with the United States, a senior American diplomat said here Oct. 12 that Beijing has agreed to ``intensify'' high-level talks on human rights.

John Shattuck, assistant secretary of state for human rights, reported no substantial progress in talks with Chinese officials but said China's agreement to continue the discussion ``bodes well for ... these issues.''

While no timetable for future meetings has been set, Mr. Shattuck said his talks had ``set the stage for productive discussions'' between President Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin at the summit of Asian and Pacific Rim countries in Seattle this November.

The Shattuck visit, which was repeatedly delayed in recent months as Sino-US relations went into a tailspin, is crucial to China's battle to keep its most-favored-nation (MFN) trading status with the US. After renewing the trading privileges last June, Mr. Clinton pegged next year's extension to a new assessment of China's record on free emigration, prison labor, political prisoners, forced family planning policies, and Tibet. Shattuck's report will figure in Clinton's decision. He is being allowed by China to visit Tibet.

In September, Beijing narrowly lost its bid to host the 2000 Summer Olympics, in part because of US objections over China's human rights record. That setback, together with US trade sanctions imposed over missile sales to Pakistan, nagging trade disputes, and embarrassing but unsubstantiated US accusations that China was exporting chemical weapons, has embittered China toward the US.

Shattuck said his delegation gave Chinese officials a list of Chinese political detainees, but was unclear when pressed to clarify what constituted enough human rights progress to win China a renewal of the MFN trade status next year.

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