By STEVEN LEE MYERSChina rejects US actions on bombing of embassy
April 11, 2000
WASHINGTON, April 10 -- China today rejected the official American explanation of the bombing of its embassy in Belgrade during the NATO air war against Yugoslavia last year and again demanded a "thorough and comprehensive" investigation. But American officials declared the matter closed.
The spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, Zhu Bangzao, criticized the Central Intelligence Agency's dismissal of a midlevel officer blamed for the attack as inadequate and reiterated China's demands that the Clinton administration "punish those responsible."
China's response indicates that its government remains deeply suspicious of American assurances that the bombing last May 7, which killed 3 Chinese and wounded at least 20 others, was a mistake.
"We expect we're going to have to agree to disagree on this," a senior administration official said today, adding that there were no plans to investigate the bombing further.
Late last week, 11 months after the bombing, the C.I.A. dismissed one officer and punished six others for their roles in identifying and approving the target in Belgrade. American officials have said the target was meant to be a military supply headquarters.
The agency spokesman insisted in a statement that the bombing had been "a tragic accident," which officials blamed on mistakes made by the dismissed officer in locating the supply headquarters on a map. Under Secretary of State Thomas R. Pickering notified the Chinese ambassador to Washington, Li Zhao xing, of the punishment on Saturday.
"To pretend that the United States did not know the position of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia is not credible," the Chinese spokesman, Mr. Zhu, said in a statement today.
What officials have said was the intended Yugoslav target -- the Federal Directorate of Supply and Procurement -- was nearly 1,000 feet from the embassy in the New Belgrade section of the capital, and Mr. Zhu said the two buildings did not resemble each other.
"It was impossible for the U.S. side to mix up these two buildings," he said.
The State Department spokesman, James P. Rubin, responded today that the investigations had been "thorough and complete." He said the administration had gone to great lengths to explain to the Chinese the circumstances leading up to the bombing, and had described the dismissal of the agency officer and the punishment of six others as "appropriate steps."
The bombing of the embassy caused grave strains between the United States and China, leading to mob attacks on the American Embassy in Beijing and a suspension of military ties and other contacts with American diplomats.
Immediately after the attack, many Chinese officials and news reports described the strike a deliberate one, but Mr. Zhu did not repeat that assertion today.
For months afterward, Chinese officials repeatedly raised the bombing in meetings with American officials, even as the two countries made progress on other matters like China's hope to join the World Trade Organization. More recently, Chinese officials moderated their complaints and in some meetings did not raise the issue at all, administration officials say.
In December the United States agreed to pay $28 million to compensate China for the damage to the building. It previously agreed to pay $4.5 million to the families of those who had been killed. In return, China agreed to pay $2.8 million for damage to the American Embassy.
Mr. Zhu said the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade had "unmistakable markings" that should have prevented its bombing. He expressed disbelief that reviews at the time, once the target had been picked, had failed to detect the mapping error that American officials had described.
American officials have said the targeting error was not detected during numerous reviews because military databases used during the war did not note the current location of the Chinese Embassy, which moved from another site in central Belgrade more than four years ago.
Today's sharply worded criticism from China reflected the anger still lingering over the attack. Pentagon and other administration officials say the Chinese position appears intended in part for domestic consumption in China, but they also say the bombing has deeply wounded Chinese pride.
Mr. Zhu said today that the attack had "greatly hurt the dignity of the Chinese people."