The Guardian - US payout for Belgrade raid fails to soothe China

John Gittings in Hong Kong

Friday December 17, 1999

The US and China have settled on compensation for the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the Kosovo war.

Under yesterday's agreement China will receive $28m (£17.5m) for the damage caused to the Belgrade building when it was hit by five laser-guided missiles on May 8. This will be paid in addition to a $4.5m compensation package worked out in July for the three people who were killed and the 20 staff who were injured.

"Now we have reached a satisfactory conclusion we look forward to moving ahead on our overall ties," a US official said.

But Beijing made it clear yesterday that it is still deeply dissatisfied with Washington's explanation that the missile attack had been an "accident" caused by out-of-date maps.

The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao, in a statement saying the US bombing had been contrary to international law, stressed that Washington had not yet met all of Beijing's demands.

He said Washington should make a "comprehensive investigation of the bombing incident, and sternly punish those responsible, to provide a satisfactory explanation for the Chinese government and people".

A US negotiator, David Andrews, said China had also agreed to pay $2.87m compensation for the damage caused to US diplomatic buildings in China when they were attacked by demonstrators.

This means that approximately a 10th of the compensation given by the US will be returned by China, but neither the official statement nor last night's Chinese news agency report of the deal mentioned the reciprocal payment.

The bombing, which caused outrage in China, was exploited by conservatives in the Communist party and by the military to argue that the US could never be trusted and that China should step up its military modernisation. President Jiang Zemin sided with this ad hoc coalition.

Many Chinese foreign policy experts advised Mr Jiang that the stability of Asia in the next century would depend upon a stable relationship between China and the US. Last month Mr Jiang appeared more conciliatory, allowing a bilateral agreement on Beijing's entry into the World Trade Organisation.

The embassy bombing damaged the standing of the Chinese premier, Zhu Rongji, whose efforts to push through a trade deal earlier in the year had made him vulnerable to criticism at home. Mr Jiang is now able to claim all the credit for salvaging the agreement.

Western diplomats in Beijing now hope that the deal will allow a line to be drawn under the incident, but underlying tensions remain. President Bill Clinton's statement expressing concern at China's treatment of the Falun Gong sect has upset Beijing, and bilateral talks on human rights have not yet resumed.

The Chinese foreign ministry last night refused to answer questions about when negotiations on rights and other issues such as nuclear proliferation would resume.

The spokesman also said the compensation should be paid promptly. Beijing will strongly protest any delay imposed by the US congress.

http://www.newsunlimited.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,115040,00.html

[URL may be different next day if article is archived]