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HOUSE OKS CHINA’S TRADE STATUS

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President Clinton is promising to press for improved human rights in China after the House affirmed his decision to forgo trade sanctions against the Beijing government.

Lawmakers on Tuesday night approved, 280-152, a measure essentially writing into law Clinton's May 26 executive order extending China's low-tariff trade privileges, known as most-favored-nation status, or MFN.The vote in effect ends any congressional challenge to Clinton's policy since both chambers would have to vote to overturn it by veto-proof margins.

Clinton welcomed the vote in a statement, saying he was "committed to pursuing a sensible policy towards China that vigorously promotes the full range of U.S. interests in China - including im-proved human rights."

The dispute cut across party lines and split the Democratic leadership.

House Speaker Thomas Foley, D-Wash., urged members not to overturn Clinton, who he said needed China's help in pushing North Korea to suspend its nuclear weapons program.

Opponents, however, said no consideration was more important than taking a stand against China's transgressions, including forced labor by an estimated 2 million to 3 million prisoners, the jailing of religious leaders, repression of Tibet and the export of nuclear and missile technology.