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June 16, 2000  

  

BEIJING (AP) - China's defense minister met with the superintendent of the U.S. Army academy West Point on Thursday, repairing military contacts suspended a year ago.

      

Chi Haotian, one of China's most politically influential generals, discussed the sticky issue of Taiwan with Lt. Gen. Daniel Christman, who arrived on Wednesday for a six-day visit, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

     

"Appropriate handling of the Taiwan question is crucial to the healthy and stable development of relations between the two sides," Chi was quoted as saying.

     

Chi reiterated China's longstanding position that Taiwan should be brought under Chinese rule via peaceful means but that China will not renounce using force against the island, Xinhua said.

     

Taiwan and China split during civil war in 1949, and Beijing perceives U.S. support for the island as an impediment to union.

     

Washington maintains close, though unofficial, relations with Taiwan and is required by law to consider aiding its defense.

     

Both men expressed hopes for further exchanges, Xinhua said.

     

That, and the relatively mild tone of Chi's comments on Taiwan gave the meeting a favorable spin, although such exchanges are the subject of considerable debate in both China and the United States.

     

China cut off military exchanges with the United States following NATO's accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in May 1999. The attack killed three Chinese journalists and ignited protests across China.

     

China demands further investigation and punishment of those responsible.

     

Contacts were resumed in January after an agreement on compensation was reached.

    


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