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China Maintains Its Hard Line Stance Prior to Clinton's Visit

By Jim Mann
Los Angeles Times
BEIJING

China took a hard line Thursday in intense negotiations over President Clinton's upcoming trip here, turning aside requests by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to make concessions timed to the presidential visit.

Albright, joined by a host of other U.S. officials, appealed for changes in China's policies on issues such as Tibet, human rights, trade and weapons proliferation. But after two days of meetings, she and her aides could point to little or no progress in these areas.

Instead, the Chinese adopted uncompromising positions, often returning to old words and formulas. On Tibet, for example, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Tang Guoqiang unleashed a long denunciation of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader. The Clinton administration is urging China to begin talks with the Dalai Lama, who fled from his homeland four decades ago. Instead, Tang said Thursday that the Dalai Lama should "size up the situation (and) forego his illusions."

Rather than easing their policies, Chinese officials told the administration to give ground by lifting all remaining sanctions imposed on China after the bloody crackdown on protests in Tiananmen Square nine years ago. Tang said that the Chinese government was right to call in the army and end those 1989 demonstrations.

Clinton's trip to China, scheduled in late June, will be the first presidential visit since 1989. Albright and other U.S. officials came here now to see what agreements can be reached in time for Clinton's trip. There is still more than a month left before Clinton embarks for China and officials traveling with Albright repeated that negotiations on subjects such as arms control and human rights continue. And while China may be unyielding now, it could still make concessions.

But some experts believe that no significant or far-reaching agreements will result from the diplomatic visit.