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Albright Gets Chilly Welcome From Chinese As Talks Start

By Bob Drogin
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- BEIJING

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan never stopped smiling, but when he and visiting U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with reporters Monday, part of his opening statement was downright chilly.

“A handful of anti-China elements within the United States are going all out to interfere with and obstruct the normal development of China-U.S. relations,” Tang said. Their actions, he added, “are doomed to failure.”

Tang did not elaborate. Albright, after glancing warily at her aides clustered along the wall, did not immediately respond. But the message was clear at the opening round of Albright’s two days of meetings with China’s top leaders: After two successful summits between President Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin in 1997 and 1998, the honeymoon is over.

Last week alone, the Clinton administration rejected the proposed sale by a U.S. company of a $450 million satellite communications system to China, delivered a report to Congress warning that a “substantial” buildup of Chinese missiles was under way near Taiwan, and issued a scathing State Department report on China’s mounting human rights abuses.

China, in turn, gave no sign of easing the political crackdown it launched last December with a dramatic series of arrests, show trials and prison sentences. On Friday, as Albright was en route here, China detained dissident Wu Yilong and sentenced pro-democracy advocate Peng Ming to 18 months in a labor camp.

In response to questions, Albright expressed “great concern” about the crackdown. But she said Washington was not considering reversing course and linking China’s progress on human rights with trade policy because “we actually make better progress in both when they are not linked.”

James P. Rubin, the State Department spokesman, said Albright gave a far more spirited critique of China’s human rights policies during her meetingwith Tang, and subsequent 70-minute discussion with Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji. She will meet President Jiang Tuesday.

“On human rights, the discussions were forceful, tough and there wasn’t a lot of agreement,” Rubin said. He said Albright denied “some hidden conspiracy in the United States” against China, but added that “most Americans” were concerned about Chinese policies on human rights and missile proliferation.