WASHINGTON, June 6, 1989 (UPI) - President Bush won praise from across the political spectrum for his cautious steps in response to the brutal violence in China, but with the plaudits came warnings that tougher actions might be needed soon.
Bush, in announcing the suspension of military sales to China because of the communist government's massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in China, added Monday that he was aware he may have to toughen the U.S. position if the situation did not improve.
''I reserve the right to take a whole new look at things if the violence escalates,'' the president said.
But for the time being, Bush's moderate steps were applauded by both his fellow Republicans and the Democrats, who control Congress.
''We agreed right around the table ... that the president's actions were just right,'' Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said after a 45-minute White House meeting between the president and congressional leaders.
''I don't criticize the president. I think he's done the right thing,'' said Rep. Thomas Foley, D-Wash., expected to be elected Tuesday as the new House speaker.
Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, the ranking GOP member of the Foreign Relations Committee and an outspoken critic of the communist government in China, said Bush was ''taking it one step at a time. It's fine so far. It depends on whether the atrocities continue.''
The congressional leadership was preparing a non-binding resolution on China, but Helms was expected to try to attach tougher steps on a supplemental spending bill now in the Senate.
Speaking at a hastily called White House news conference, Bush, a former U.S. envoy to China, said Monday he believes his actions are ''going to send a strong signal'' to Beijing that ''it's not business as usual'' now with the United States.
Bush deplored the violence in China, calling on the government to return to restraint.
However, he cautioned that the United States must be careful in its response and not take severe steps that would do serious damage to relations with China and harm the progress toward democratic reforms that have taken place there in recent years.
U.S.-Chinese relations have steadily expanded economically, militarily and diplomatically since formal relations were established in 1979 and Bush said, ''I don't want to see a total break in this relationship.''
''This is not the time for an emotional response but for a reasoned, careful action that takes into account both our long-term interests and recognition of a complex internal situation,'' Bush said.
''When you see these kids struggling for democracy and freedom, this would be a bad time for the United States to pull out,'' Bush said.
Late Monday, in an evening address to the Business Roundtable Conference in Washington, Bush departed from his prepared speech on education to speak of ''the bravery'' of one protester in Beijing who stood in front of a tank column rolling down the main avenue near Tiananmen Square and stopped the vehicles.
''I was so moved,'' said Bush, recalling seeing the act of defiance on television. ''All I can say to him, wherever he might be, and to the people around the world, we are and we must stand with him.''
In response to the violence, Bush suspended ''government-to-government sales and commercial exports of weapons,'' as well as exchange visits by U.S. and Chinese military leaders.
A White House spokesman said four military sales projects totaling more than $600 million, most of it for development of avionics for an F-8 intercept jet fighter, would be halted.
The president's action does not involve non-military trade, which in 1987 totaled more than $10 billion, the spokesman said.
In addition to suspending weapons sales, Bush said there would be a ''sympathetic review'' of requests by Chinese students to extend their stay in the United States, and humanitarian and medical aid would be offered through the Red Cross.
Some lawmakers, including a number of liberals, initially said they believed Bush should have recalled the U.S. ambassador to China, James Lilley, for consultations.
But Bush said it would be ''180 degrees wrong'' to take that step because it would deprive the United States of ''the best listening post'' in Asia. The congressional leaders later said they believed Bush was correct in keeping Lilley in Beijing.
''Let's take it cautiously,'' added Rep. Mike Synar, D-Okla. ''One of the things we don't want to do is hurt the people themselves.''
Later Monday, Bush met in the Oval Office with four Chinese students from American campuses, who praised his actions as appropriate. There are an estimated 40,000 Chinese students in the United States.
Jia Hao, 38, studying for a doctorate degree at George Washington University, said, ''I think it will be a great support, spiritually and physically, for the people. ... It will also be a big blow to those who are responsible for the massacre -- those butchers of Beijing.''