Chinese President Jiang Zemin, speaking after a meeting with President George W. Bush at Bush's Prairie Chapel Ranch in Texas, said Beijing was committed to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
"I can answer your question in the most clear-cut terms -- and most definitely -- that we Chinese always hold the position that the Korean peninsula should be nuclear-weapon-free," he said in response to a reporter's question.
"We are completely in the dark as for the recent development, but today President Bush and I agreed that the problem should be resolved peacefully. Bush said diplomatic initiatives were under way.
Bush said that, "President Jiang made it clear that China, like the United States, believes in a Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons."
"This is a chance for the United States and China to work very closely together to achieve that vision of a nuclear-free or nuclear-weapons-free peninsula, and so I've instructed Secretary (of State Colin) Powell to work very closely with his counterpart, as well as with their counterparts in South Korea and Japan and Russia, to come up with a common strategy to convince Kim Jong Il to disarm.
"And so to complete our -- the important dialogue of developing a strategy that will hold North Korea to account in terms of disarming, I'm going to be visiting with the prime minister of Japan and the leader of South Korea tomorrow in Mexico."
The United States said last week that North Korean officials admitted to a program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons when confronted with evidence of its program by visiting American officials.
U.S. officials earlier said they apparently began violating the agreement in 1995 by starting a surreptitious program to obtain enriched uranium for weapons. It's earlier program using plutonium remained closed, however.
The admission dumbfounded Washington, which expected Pyongyang to deny that it had violated the 1994 accord signed with former President Bill Clinton.
++Under that agreement, Korea receives some 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil. It is also receiving help in building two nuclear reactors to generate power.
Speculation is that North Korea wants to use its defiance as a bargaining chip to gain more economic aid.
An unrepentant Pyongyang earlier this week said it was prepared to begin negotiations with the United States over the issue , but Washington would first have to sign a non-aggression pact.
A senior administration official, speaking after the Bush-Jiang talks, indicated that was may not happen.
The fundamental fact, he said, is "that the North Korean acknowledgment that they have violated the most fundamental tenets of the agreed framework does make it difficult for us to go back into negotiations with them. There is a lack of trust there, I will say that.
"We haven't ruled anything out completely. We are consulting with our
friends and our allies ... But, frankly, there's not much
enthusiasm for going back into another round of negotiations with people who've just shown us that they won't negotiate with us in good faith."
The demand for a non-aggression agreement stipulating the United States would not attack the isolationist regime, he cautioned, has in the past been linked by Pyongyang to its demand for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea.
Currently about 37,000 U.S. military personnel are in the South. That bootprint has existed since the end of the Korean in the early 1950s.
"We are at the beginning of a campaign to mobilize the world against this
program. And as of right now, I think we're making fairly good progress," the senior official said.++
Friday's formal meeting in this whistle-stop town in Central Texas lasted about an hour. It was the third between the two men and could likely be the last.
++Jiang, who came to power in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-democracy activists, is expected to step down as Communist Party chief next month and as president in March. There's speculation he could stay on, and Jiang Friday did nothing to dispel that notion. When asked by a reporter if he was to vacate the seat of power, he simply replied he had heard the rumors also.++
Both presidents described their talks as "constructive." During their discussions, they touched on human rights, religion, non-proliferation and other issues.
"I told President Bush that democracy and human rights are the common pursuits of mankind and that China's human rights situation is at its best time, characterized by constant improvement." Jiang said.
"Regarding their differences in these areas, the Chinese side stands ready to continue exchanging views with the U.S. side on the basis of mutual respect and seeking common ground while shelving differences, with a view to deepening understanding and enhancing consensus.
"I'm confident that so long as the two sides persist in viewing and handling their relations from a strategic height and with a long-term perspective, and keep expanding cooperation and enhancing mutual trust, China-U.S. relations will be able to grow steadily and bring benefits to both peoples."
++President Bush announced that Vice President Dick Cheney would visit China in the spring. The senior U.S. official said it not symbolized a strengthening and deepening of ties between the two states.
The official also said the United States and China were to strengthen cooperation on non-proliferation of weapons and steps were being taken for meetings on the issue in the future.++
Jiang and his wife Wang Yeping arrived at Prairie Chapel Ranch at about 10:45 a.m. from Waco's airport in a limousine flying both U.S. and Chinese flags.
Laura Bush greeted Jiang first with a handshake. President Bush kissed Wang on both cheeks.
Observers believe that Jiang's invitation to Bush's Texas home underscores the importance the president places on U.S.-China relations, which suffered a body-blow last year in the standoff over U.S. military overflights and the crash landing of an American surveillance plane after it collided with a Chinese MiG.
China is one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. As such, it can veto a strong, U.S-sought resolution to compel Iraq's Saddam Hussein to comply with earlier agreements to allow weapons inspections and disarm itself of suspected weapons of mass destruction.
China has stated that it is opposed to the use of U.S. military force, but Bush lobbied Jiang during his meeting.
China supported "Iraq's strict compliance with U.N. Security (Council) resolutions," he said. "And today we discussed, and I urged President Jiang, to support a new Security Council resolution demanding Iraq fully disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction."
When asked if China would support a strong resolution that would trigger military action in case of non-compliance, Jiang sidestepped the question.
"The two Presidents did ... discuss Iraq fairly thoroughly," the senior U.S. official added later. "I think that you know our position very well and I think President Jiang Zemin has also made it very clear that Iraq should implement all previous Security Council resolutions.
" I'm not going to go much beyond that, but to say that I think we
have common ground to work."
The thorniest bilateral issue discussed was Taiwan, the Nationalist Chinese island off the Chinese mainland, which China considers a renegade province.
Jiang, observers said, wanted a clear commitment from the Bush administration for the so-called One China policy -- recognition of the Peoples' Republic of China as the legitimate Chinese government. Such a policy has been followed by the United States for years, but Washington is also committed by law to providing support for Taiwan.
Jiang got what he wished for on Friday. Bush repeated the administration's acceptance of the One China Policy and made it clear Washington would not support any move by Taiwan to declare itself an independent state.
"In terms of your question about the One-China policy, a one-China policy means that the issue ought to be resolved peacefully," he said.
"We've got influence with some in the region. We intend to make sure that the issue is resolved peacefully, and that includes making it clear that we do not support independence (for Taiwan)."
Both men summed up bilateral relations as being on a stronger footing than in the past, despite areas of disagreement.
"In the past year, China and the United States have expanded their cooperation and enhanced mutual understanding and trust. On the whole, the relationship has enjoyed a good momentum of growth," Jiang said.
"Facts have proven again that the despite profound changes in the international situation, and despite the differences of one type or another between China and the U.S., our two countries have more rather than less common interests, and the prospect of cooperation between us has become broader rather than narrower."