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Bush deplores China's use of force against student demonstrators

By HELEN THOMAS, UPI White House Reporter

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine, June 3, 1989 (UPI) - President Bush, apparently moved by reports of violence from China, said Saturday he ''deeply deplored'' the Beijing government's decision to use force against student demonstrators.

In a formal statement issued by the White House, Bush urged the Chinese government to return to the use of non-violent means to deal with the student uprising that has rocked Beijing for the past seven weeks.

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''It is clear that the Chinese government has chosen to use force against Chinese citizens who are making a peaceful statement in favor of democracy,'' the statement said. ''I deeply deplore the decision to use force against peaceful demonstrators and the consequent loss of life.''

Chinese troops moved into Beijing's Tiananmen Square, focal point of the student demonstrations for democracy, late Saturday night. Reports indicate at least 22 people were killed and scores wounded in the subsequent fighting.

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''We have been urging and continue to urge nonviolent restraint and dialogue,'' Bush added. ''Tragically another course has been chosen. Again, I urge a return to nonviolent means for dealing with the current situation.

''The United States and the People's Republic of China over the past two decades have built up through great efforts by both sides a constructive relationship, beneficial to both countries,'' said Bush, who once served as U.S. ambassador to China.

''I hope China will rapidly return to the path of political and economic reform and conditions of stability so that this relationship, so important to both our peoples, can continue its growth,'' Bush said.

A White House official said the president decided to issue the statement after receiving more reports on growing violence in the Chinese capital. Bush had remained silent most of the day, leaving it to Secretary of State James Baker to make the first formal comment on the troop movements in Beijing.

Speaking on CNN's ''Newsmaker Saturday'' in Washington, Baker noted that the situation in China had turned ''ugly and chaotic'' and said the Unite States was urging Beijing to use restraint in responding to the student demonstrations.

''I think the Chinese government knows the position of the United States government,'' Baker said. ''You know, the army of China calls itself the 'Army of the People.' And we think it would be unfortunate, indeed, if the 'Army of the People' were used to supress the people.''

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Although Baker indicated that the United States preferred not to meddle in China's internal affairs, he said, ''I think that the messages that we have sent, however, have been received in the spirit in which they have been sent. We've not in effect been told to mind your own business.''

Baker also said the State Department had been in touch with the U.S. Embassy in China, which reported that the situation was ''quite chaotic now. There is shooting going on. To some extent that shooting appears to be aimed up in the air although we do have some preliminary reports of casualties.''

The secretary noted that the United States had been unable to confirm any casualties.

Bush also was briefed on the developments in China by Deputy National Security Adviser Robert Gates, who was one of the few staffers on hand at the summer White House overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

The White House expressed caution about suggestions that arms sales to the Chinese government be limited in response to the crackdown.

''I don't think we should sit here today ... within hours of the first really significant use of force (against a peaceful demonstration by the students) ... and try and hypothesize about what that will mean,'' Baker said.

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''I think we'll have to see what happens. We're not sure what course this will take, even now,'' the secretary said.

But on Capitol Hill, Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he would attempt to end the sharing of U.S. military and technology with China.

''I find little surprise that the Chinese communists are acting as communists always do,'' he said in a statement Saturday. ''The violence in Beijing is deplorable, and all of us have hoped and prayed that it would not happen. But it has happened.

''I will begin working with my colleagues to insure that, as a first response against this brutality, all U.S. military cooperation and sharing of technology with the communist government of China must be terminated immediately,'' Helms said.

The president arrived on the rocky coast of Maine Friday after a weeklong journey to Europe that was highlighted by a triumphant NATO summit where he unveiled his new disarmament proposals.

Bush planned a Saturday afternoon briefing on his European trip with Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine, Sen. William Cohen, R-Maine, and Maine Gov. John McKernan.

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