Despite a lack of dramatic breakthroughs in President Clinton’s talks Sunday with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, both sides signaled their troubled relations are on the mend.
They agreed to exchange presidential visits over the next two years.
In the most upbeat remarks in at least 18 months about dealings with Washington, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang described the 90-minute meeting as “friendly, positive and constructive.”
“Clearly, the relationship has stabilized and gained momentum from where we were last spring,” said Winston Lord, assistant U.S. secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. Last spring, China staged war games and launched missiles near Taiwan, and the United States dispatched a carrier battle group to the region.
In an intriguing element of their talks, Jiang told Clinton the remnants of a World War II-era U.S. bomber, believed to be a B-24, with human remains inside have been found in the southern China region of Guangxi.
Clinton was given a videotape and photos of the site, and the United States was invited to send investigators to gather more information.
Officials said they have only the barest details about the find.
Sunday night, Clinton joined 17 other Asian-Pacific leaders for the opening of a summit struggling over trade issues.
The president held out slim hope that participants in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum would embrace his call for revoking tariffs on computers, software and other high-technology items by 2000.
Nearing the end of a 12-day tour, the president will fly today to Thailand for a daylong state visit, then will return to Washington for Thanksgiving.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula and trade disputes with Japan were reviewed by Clinton in separate talks with President Kim Young-sam of South Korea and Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.
Kim has demanded an apology from North Korea for a submarine incursion into South Korean waters in September.
Without using the word “apology,” Clinton joined Kim in demanding that North Korea “take acceptable steps to resolve the submarine incident, reduce tension and avoid such provocations in the future.”
Clinton and Kim agreed to continue a push for four-party peace talks involving China, North Korea, the United States and South Korea and to urge the North to accept them.
Strained by travel and speeches, Clinton’s voice was hoarse as he sat down with Jiang at the Central Bank in Manila. Jiang suggested the president try Chinese herbal medicine or acupuncture.
The United States readily acknowledged the talks produced no breakthroughs with China but said Clinton’s goal was to keep engaged on a broad array of issues rather than get bogged down by a single dispute.