Bush yet to accept Beijing invitation
BEIJING, China -- U.S. President George W. Bush has been invited to extend his visit to China in October to include a state visit to Beijing.
But the White House says Bush has not yet decided to accept the invitation. "We've been invited to have a state visit. We have not yet made a decision whether to accept the invitation," said Mary Ellen Countryman, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.
In Beijing, China's Premier Zhu Rongii used his annual news conference to announce that Bush would visit China's capital.
Bush had been expected to travel to Shanghai in October to attend a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders but U.S. officials in Beijing said no plans for a state visit had been announced before.
"I am very happy that President Bush has already accepted President Jiang's invitation to attend the informal APEC leadership meeting that is scheduled in Shanghai. He will also pay a state visit to China," Zhu said after the close of China's parliament, the National People's Congress.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush was pleased to receive the invitation but "we have nothing to announce right now."
Partners in trade
Earlier in Beijing, shrugging off early signs of hawkish new U.S. policies toward China, Zhu vowed to forge a working partnership with the new Bush administration.
"It will take some time for the two sides to get to know each other," Zhu said, adding that channels between the Chinese and U.S. presidents were already "open and unimpeded and they have kept closely in touch."
The Bush administration has riled Beijing by saying it would sponsor a U.N. resolution faulting China's human rights record, flirting with selling advanced arms to Taiwan and saying it would push ahead with a missile shield plan China opposes.
Zhu said that while China sometimes got a "complicated" message from the new administration in Washington, this mainly underscored the "need to have effective communication."
Zhu noted that new U.S. officials had dismissed talk by the previous administration of Bill Clinton of a strategic partnership as a "misnomer which does not reflect the true picture" of rivalry.
"Although China and United States are competitors, China and the United States are indeed partners in trade," said Zhu, adding the visit would be an excellent opportunity for the two countries to talk.
"China and the US also ought to cooperate in other areas so I don't think the difference is very serious," he said.
In another sign China is seeking to strengthen long-term and stable ties with the United States, Beijing said it would talk with U.S. officials about America's missile defense system in a bid to "narrow the differences" between them.
The commander of U.S. Pacific forces, Admiral Dennis Blair, has said China's willingness to talk about Washington's plan to build an anti-missile shield bodes well for a productive strategic dialogue between the two nations.
At the same time, Zhu also reiterated China's opposition to U.S. plans for a national missile defense system.
Beijing sees a U.S. missile umbrella as a threat to China's security and says it could hamper arms control efforts and trigger an arms race.
China also fears a localized Asian version of the system could include Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province, frustrating Beijing's plans to reunify with the island.
But the Bush administration says it needs the system as a safeguard against missile attack from adversaries such as Iraq and North Korea.
In the first meeting between a senior Beijing official and the new U.S. president, a senior leader for foreign policy, Vice Premier Qian Qichen, is due to visit the United States next week, where missile defense and U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan is likely to top the agenda.
Even though Zhu has noted that the Bush administration had promised not to challenge Beijing's view that Taiwan is a part of China, Beijing's efforts to build relations with Bush could be disrupted by U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan.
Blair said a Chinese buildup in missiles than can strike Taiwan might prompt Washington to sell more high-tech weapons to the island.
His comments come weeks before the United States decides what weapons to sell the island this year to counter what is seen as a growing threat from China.
Blair said China was adding 50 missiles a year to roughly 300 aimed at Taiwan.
"There will be a point at which that missile buildup will threaten the sufficient defense of Taiwan," he said.
Chinese missile deployments could determine whether Washington will one day sell the island the anti-missile systems that Beijing opposes, Blair added.
Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the United States promised to sell Taiwan the arms needed to defend itself.
For China, the Taiwan issue is sacred. The sides split amid civil war in 1949, but Beijing still regards Taiwan as part of its territory to be brought back into the mainland's fold, peacefully if possible.
China seeks U.S. missile defense talks
Chinese Foreign Ministry
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