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China chief warns of arms race

WASHINGTON (AP) — Combining strong talk with some conciliatory comments, Chinese President Jiang Zemin warned that U.S. sales of advanced weapons to Taiwan would accelerate China's effort on modernizing its military.

In an interview in Saturday editions of the Washington Post, Jiang expressed a basic optimism that the two nations can overcome disagreements as he urged the Bush administration to "think strategically."

Jiang said, however, that "if the United States were to sell advanced weapons to Taiwan such as the Aegis (ship missile) system, that would be very detrimental to China-U.S. relations.

"The more weapons you sell, the more we will prepare ourselves in terms of our national defense. This is logical," Jiang said in Beijing.

He spoke of U.S. leaders in personal terms, saying that "in terms of private friendships, I think I have more friends in the Republican Party," citing former President Bush among others.

"The father of President Bush, Bush Sr., came over to China many, many times and had many meetings with me in the seat you are now occupying," Jiang told his interviewer. "We believe Bush Sr. will definitely push Bush Jr. to bring U.S.-China relations to a new level."

He referred to Republican foreign policy elders such as former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and Henry Kissinger at a time when China's deputy prime minister, Qian Qichen, is in Washington lobbying against selling U.S. weapons to Taiwan.

Of Qian's visit, Jiang told the Post that "these activities have been taken . . . with the idea of promoting mutual understanding."

Jiang contended in written remarks that it is "groundless" to feel China and the United States will inevitably come into conflict.

Later, Jiang said, "I don't have a naive or romantic view that the strategic partnership proposed by President Clinton was a relationship free from struggles or containment. It involved both. Conversely, I do not believe that" the relationship between the two countries under the current administration "does not contain any element of cooperation."