China ministry report sees advances in US ties-media

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BEIJING, Sep 16 (Reuters) China considers it has made some advances in its relationship with the United States in the past year, despite friction over Taiwan and trade, according to a Foreign Ministry report quoted by state media today.

Media reports quoting the annual diplomatic white paper, to be released by the ministry next week, gave few specific details and did not elaborate on what Beijing considered its ''major'' advancements in relations with Washington.

But the Beijing News said the white paper criticised what it called Washington's interference in domestic issues involving human rights, religion, the Dalai Lama and Hong Kong.

And Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po newspaper said the report also criticised Washington for selling advanced submarine and anti-missile systems to Taiwan. It added that Beijing opposed congressional measures in support of Taiwan.

Washington was sending ''wrong signals'' to those in Taiwan who favour independence, ''damaging'' Sino-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, the newspaper said, citing the white paper.

China's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday it had lodged a ''strong protest'' calling for Washington to cancel plans to sell weapons to Taiwan, including P3-C type anti-submarine patrol planes in a deal worth up to 1.96 billion dollar.

Since nationalists lost a civil war and fled to Taiwan in 1949, China has regarded it as a renegade province and has threatened to use force if necessary to reunite it with the mainland.

Jiang Yu, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, said the arms sale would be a severe violation of existing US-China communiques, and a ''wild interference to China's internal affairs''.

''SERIOUS SITUATIONS'' A spokesman for the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council criticised an effort by Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian to hold a referendum on a proposal to join the United Nations under the name of Taiwan.

''We will keep a close watch over developments on the other side of the Strait and have prepared to cope with serious situations,'' he said.

Media said the white paper also noted improved relations with Japan, saying the two countries ended a five-year political deadlock with the October visit to Beijing by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

It said that visit set the countries on course for a ''normal development track''.

Abe's decision last week to resign raised questions about whether ties would continue to strengthen under his successor.

Yasuo Fukuda, the frontrunner to succeed Abe, said today Tokyo had to improve relations with China.

Economic and trade issues have also strained the relationship between the U.S. and China in the past year, with disputes over violations of intellectual property rights, currency policy and trade.

The world's largest economy accuses the fourth-largest of keeping its currency unfairly undervalued, contributing to a growth in its trade surplus with the US.

Recently, China's weak product safety protections have also come under fire in Washington, after a range of China-made products, from toothpaste to toys to pet food, have been found to be substandard or to pose health hazards.

Beijing insists the vast majority of its products are safe and has accused critics of politicising the issue.

REUTERS SR AS2040

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