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    White House Briefing

White House Briefing, February 22, 2000
2:20 P.M. EST

The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

Q    On China, you talked about it this morning, but I'd like to address it again for camera, if you don't mind -- some tough talk out of China regarding Taiwan.  What's the administration's position on that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I don't have much to add to what I said this morning, but I'll say that the U.S. government rejects any use of force or any threat of force in this situation.  We believe that a peaceful dialogue and bilateral engagement between the two sides is the best way to move forward.

Q    Has there been any attempt to clarify or find out what they're talking about or if this is very factual stuff from China?

MR. LOCKHART:  I think this is, as described for me, as something like an 11,000-word white paper with lots of different issues in it that our China people are looking very closely at.  But as far as any suggestion that this situation can be resolved through the use of force, that is something that our policy opposes.

Q    It comes at a time when you're dealing with Congress on WTO.  Doesn't that hurt your cause, then?

MR. LOCKHART:  I don't think so.  I think that this has to be looked at with some perspective.  I think the WTO case, on its merits, are very clear.  The benefits to opening the Chinese market to American businesses, to American families, are quite clear and quite one-sided, and that's the case we're going to continue to make.

Q    You don't think that the opponents per se against trade and so forth would use this?

MR. LOCKHART:  I can't speak to what opponents of this agreement will or won't use.  I can only speak to what I believe are the merits of the WTO deal and providing normal trade relations.

Q    How far along are you in lobbying for this?

MR. LOCKHART:  Well, the President will speak to a business group later this week.  He had two meetings last week with small groups of members, about 15 to 20 in each.  I expect him to have at least two more before this month is over and to continue to make the case, both publicly to the American public, to the American business community, urging them to do what they can to generate support, and also privately to members.  That process is well underway and will continue.

Q    Before Mr. Talbott and Mr. Steinberg left for China, we were told that one of the things that they would discuss with the Chinese leaders in Beijing was trying to discourage them, or at least have a dialogue with them about stopping or preventing any provocative statements from the Chinese government before the Taiwanese election.  Considering the length of this document, were either of them given any heads up that this was coming, or does the administration in any way view it a provocative act in light of those recent conversations?

MR. LOCKHART:  I don't know that we equate one with the other.  I don't know if any heads-up was given.  If there was, I haven't been made aware of it.  I think the purpose of those meetings was to discuss the state of our relations, to make sure that we were doing what we can to put them back on the right track, in a follow up to the meeting that the resident had in Auckland and in light of the events of last year.  So I just don't know whether there was any sort of heads-up on the existence or preview of the document.

Q    Joe, back on China, could you explain why the administration views China's threat of force against Taiwan as a grave concern, as you put it this morning, yet you don't believe that China's actions should become a stumbling block on WTO debate?

MR. LOCKHART:  I think, as I said this morning, if they were to take action, which would try to resolve the issue between China and Taiwan through force, we would view that with grave concern.  That's the position articulated in the Taiwan Relations Act and that continues.  They haven't done that.

Q    What will we do besides view?  Will we just view or will we take action, like sending --

MR. LOCKHART:  We would work with Congress, as administrations going back three decades have, to take the appropriate action.

Q    That would include military action, wouldn't it?

MR. LOCKHART:  I'm not telling you what it would or wouldn't include.

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