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Kaifu in China

THE Toyko-Beijing summit ending this week played to a number of audiences, particularly in the West, and it scored plenty of points for both parties. Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu was the first world leader to visit China since the Tiananmen Square crackdown in June of 1989. Meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng, President Yang Shangkung, and party chief Jiang Zemin, Mr. Kaifu normalized Japan's political and budding economic relations with China while at the same time delivering a stern message to China's leaders about human rights. With the Japanese premier facing an October election, this trip, along with his meeting at Kennebunkport in July, shores up Kaifu's image at home as a leader. Kaifu actually laid a wreath at Tiananmen Square, inscribed with the words: "The heroes of the people are immortal." No senior Chinese leaders were around for that occasion. Undaunted, Kaifu lectured both Zemin and Shangkung on human rights, and at a Sino-Japanese center he gave a speech supporting "freedom and democracy" as the basis of a "new world order." These are the words of the hour in the West, and Kaifu gets away with them in Beijing because Japan has not made an issue of Tiananmen. Surely it was with irony that the Chinese heard them - coming from the leader of a country that killed 300,000 Chinese in Nanjing in 1937. Those feelings, however, are diplomatic bygones. Kaifu's visit allowed China's leaders an opportunity to polish their international image - something they care deeply about. The plum came when Beijing announced it would sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a matter Washington has pressed China on. This is a positive step, one that closes a large proliferation loophole. As a "nuclear weapons state" signatory, China cannot transfer nuclear weapons or assist other countries in developing or obtaining them. Any nuclear technology transfer from China to another country would be "safeguarded" - monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Will China play by the rules? Beijing's actions will be closely watched. China may have felt ready to sign the NPT because it has, sadly, completed its mission of helping Pakistan develop nuclear weapons. The recent sale of Chinese M-11 missiles to Pakistan merely ices the cake. Thus China plays Pakistan off rival India. By signing the NPT, China not only pleases the White House but puts the heat on India, a non-signatory, to sign as well. The Beijing summit helped Asian solidarity. Japan is better positioned. So is China. Yet Chinese intellectuals are still repressed. This isn't forgotten.

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