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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                             (Tokyo, Japan)
For Immediate Release                                     April 18, 1996
                          BACKGROUND BRIEFING
                              ANA Hotel
                             Tokyo, Japan                                      

1:35 P.M. (L)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good afternoon. I just want to update you very briefly on where I think we are both on China, with Secretary Christopher's meeting tomorrow with Qian Qichen, and also on Lebanon. Let me do that consecutively. Very briefly I'll go to your questions.

On China, as you know, Secretary Christopher 's going to be leaving here this afternoon; he will not accompany the President on Air Force One, he's going to take the backup plane. We're going to fly to Moscow and then pick up the Secretary's plane and fly to Amsterdam. And tomorrow afternoon the Secretary is going to have a two-to-three-hour meeting in The Hague near Amsterdam with Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen. Following that, they'll have a private dinner. Secretary Christopher will then rejoin the President in Moscow on Saturday afternoon.

I think you all know that our objectives for the China meeting are quite obvious. This is the sixth meeting that these two gentlemen will have had in the last 12 months. We have a number of great challenges with China. We have some areas of common interest and where we have a common agenda and common achievements. We have many other areas of disagreement, and we need to work through those disagreements.

Certainly on the agenda for tomorrow will be the overall objective of American policy which is to engage and not isolate China. The Chinese from time to time, you hear them enunciating fears that somehow the United States is out to isolate or contain China; that is not the case. Our policy, the President's policy is one of engagement.

Secretary Christopher will also affirm something that does need to be said at these meetings, and that is that we have a one China policy. And we recognize in our official relationship the People's Republic. We have an unofficial relationship with Taiwan.

Specific issues: Certainly the allegations that China has transferred, sold ring magnets to Pakistan will come up. It will be discussed extensively. It will be discussed because it's been a major concern of the United States for some time now. Secretary Christopher has not made a decision on what action he thinks the United States should take, what recommendations he will make to the President concerning those allegations. But they'll have a discussion, a full discussion tomorrow.

Secondly, they'll talk about Taiwan. We've been very gratified to see a rather dramatic reduction in the tensions between China and Taiwan since the elections in Taiwan last month. And we hope very much that China and Taiwan will now cooperate much more actively to resolve their own problems.

Third, we'll obviously talk to the Chinese about the proposal that the President made, along with President Kim, in Cheju the other day. We're looking for a positive Chinese response and also, of course, a positive North Korean response to the proposal put forward by the Republic of Korea and the United States. I can tell you, as of just about an hour ago, we have not received a response from North Korea. We are awaiting that response. That may take some time. And neither have we received a response from China, although, however, I do expect tomorrow we'll have a fairly extensive conversation on this issue.

Q You've had some reaction from both places, have you not?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have seen a statement I think from a North Korean ambassador about this. We don't -- I don't think that's an official statement from the government in Pyongyang. We think the ball is still in their court.

In the case of the Chinese, my counterpart, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said that they would consider this. He said they had not been consulted beforehand. Although I would tell you that they were given the proposal in -- no, they were given the proposal in full last Saturday. There may just be some misunderstanding in what he feels consultation is versus what we feel it is.

This thing was worked out over two months. We did let the Chinese, of course, know about it and we discussed it with them last weekend, a couple of days before it was announced publicly.

One way we can do this is to be just take China questions first, and then I'll go on to Lebanon because I want to do Lebanon on the record. So that's pretty much what I had to say. We're expecting a good meeting tomorrow. I wouldn't anticipate -- would not -- anticipate any dramatic announcements out of the meeting in The Hague. This is designed to be one in a series of conversations to review both the areas of agreement and the areas of disagreement with the Chinese.

Q Will the Secretary Christopher have something more in detail to discuss with them on the Korea situation beyond what was presented from last Saturday, or will this just be his opportunity to reiterate the basic --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think in two respects, yes. The Secretary, of course, sent a message to Minister Qian last week about this proposal. The Chinese government has the proposal. But here's an opportunity for us to give them our thinking in greater depth, number one, and number two, to have the Secretary Christopher give Minister Qian a report on the discussions with President Kim in Cheju and to give them our appreciation of the South Korean involvement and interest in this.

So I do anticipate a good discussion on this, although it's hard for me to say whether the Chinese tomorrow will give us their definitive response. We don't know whether they will, or not.

Q At this point are you seeking any sort of clarification from the Chinese on the magnet issue?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have been seeking information and clarification for the better part of six weeks now with the Chinese. Secretary Christopher has not made a decisions; he hasn't felt it's been the right time to make that decision. Obviously, now, on the eve of this meeting, we're going to wait until this meeting to have this discussion. We hope that we'll receive perhaps more information on the allegations. We have some questions, remaining questions that we'd like to ask, and I think after the meeting the Secretary Christopher will have to weigh all of the information that has been available to us and make a decision.

Q How long do you think it will take for -- to make a decision?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: How long will it take the Secretary Christopher to make a decision? I don't know. He's followed a fairly deliberate course here because these are very serious allegations which, if found they are in violation of international law and American law, would have very serious consequences both for China as well as for the United States. So I think what he'll do is continue this deliberate course, and when the time is right to make a decision he'll make one. But I honestly don't know when that time will be.

It's pretty hard to answer that too, as well, because we need to hear what they say to us tomorrow, obviously.

Q The IMF indicated today that it was going to go ahead and extend loans to China. And they know the recommendation from the administration is that -- particularly three -- projects. Do you guys have a comment on that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The International Monetary Fund?

Q Either the IMF -- the Ex-Im Bank -- I'm sorry, Ex-Im Bank.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The Ex-Im Bank, okay. Yes. Actually, the Ex-Im Bank, I think, Board took one decision and that was about 48 hours ago, to extend a loan to an American company doing business with China. Under the provisions of our own regulations and our own law, there's a 30-day waiting period before that loan can become final. During that 30-day waiting period, either the Congress or the administration can decide, in effect, to suspend action on that loan agreement. Of course, we always reserve the right to do so.

Q Are you going to use that --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we don't know. That will depend on the nature of our conversations with the Chinese and also I think the deliberations on the ring magnet issue and other issues. So I can't forecast whether we'll use the opportunity we have under the 30-day period, but we certainly have that right. And the Congress, of course, has a right over 30 days to look at that issue.

Q Will it come up tomorrow in your discussions with Qian?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Will the Ex-Im loan come up and the 30-day waiting period? I don't know if it will come up, but certainly it provides part of the backdrop to the meeting.

Q Why should we not assume that there is some kind of linkage between, or quid pro quo I think is a better way of putting it, between the magnet situation and cooperation on the Korean proposal?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Because there isn't. Because they're quite separate. Let me tell you why. The ring magnet issue involves American law and the responsibility of our administration to follow the law and to adhere to it, and we're going to do that. And no one feels more strongly about that then, of course, the President and Secretary Christopher.

The North Korean issue has nothing to do with it. And I would just remind you that during the last year, a year of considerable tension and disagreement in U.S.-China relations, the one issue where we were able to work very closely and well together was North Korea. Throughout the Taiwan crisis when China was cancelling meetings left and right with the United States, we continued to talk about North Korea and to agree on a course of action on North Korea, namely the agreed framework to suspend, of course, and freeze North Korea's nuclear activities. So we've always seen this issue to be one where the United States and China have had a common interest and have worked well together.

And certainly we are not linking it in any way, and the Chinese are not, and any attempt to link it is going to fail, because one concerns the law, the other concerns policy. They're quite separate.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 1:45 P.M. (L)