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Chinese Leader Zemin Protests U.S. Stand on Taiwan and Tibet

By Jim Mann
Los Angeles Times

Chinese President Jiang Zemin protested to Vice President Al Gore on Monday that the Clinton administration has been displaying too much support for both Taiwan's Nationalist government and the Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of Tibet, U.S. officials said.

Last week, the administration dispatched Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson to Taipei for rare high-level talks with Taiwanese officials. Separately, the Dalai Lama was given a warm welcome in Washington, obtaining three separate audiences with President Clinton, Gore and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

During a two-hour meeting with Gore, the Chinese president first brought up the subjects of Taiwan and Tibet and then refused to let go, a U.S. official said. The vice president is filling in for Clinton at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation gathering here because the president stayed in Washington to deal with the Iraq crisis.

"Jiang went off for about 40 minutes on these two subjects," one participant said. "It was a very lengthy discourse, a monologue on both issues."

Administration officials depicted China's protests as relatively mild. Jiang gave "a very calm, measured statement of China's fundamental views about both Taiwan and Tibet," a senior U.S. official said. "There was no hot rhetoric."

Nevertheless, Jiang's willingness to raise them indicates that Taiwan and Tibet remain at the top of the list of issues that divide the United States and China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao later said the talks between Jiang and Gore had been "positive and fruitful." But he confirmed that the Chinese president had spoken to Gore about the two "major issues" of Taiwan and Tibet.

Over the past few months, the Dalai Lama and his representatives have been seeking some new accommodation with China. In public statements, the Dalai Lama has emphasized that he does not support independence for Tibet and instead is seeking some form of self-government under Chinese rule.

But China made clear Monday that it does not believe what the Dalai Lama has been saying. "The fact is that the Dalai Lama and his clique never gave up their position on Tibetan independence," Zhu told a news conference.

U.S. officials said Jiang and his aides told Gore that "they don't think the Dalai Lama is ready for serious [dialogue]. On our side, [we said] we think he is - try him."

Over the years, China has frequently raised complaints about Taiwan and Tibet in meetings with top-level American officials. Leaders in Beijing consider Taiwan to be a Chinese province, and they have for decades accused the Dalai Lama of trying to separate Tibet from China, which sent People's Liberation Army troops into Tibet in 1950.