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Escaped dissident ruffles US-China relations ahead of Clinton visit

The US rushes a top diplomat to Beijing to work out tensions over dissident Chen Guangcheng and a possible US arms sale to Taiwan. 

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A senior US diplomat arrived in China on a hurried mission Sunday as new problems – from possible US arms sales to Taiwan to the custody of a blind dissident – threaten to complicate relations with Beijing ahead of high-level talks.

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell avoided reporters, and the US Embassy declined to discuss his agenda. His trip, originally scheduled for later this coming week, comes after the White House said it is considering selling new warplanes to Taiwan and after dissident legal activist Chen Guangcheng fled house arrest and ended up, rights campaigners said, in the protection of American officials.

Both Chen's case, if he's in US custody, and that of Taiwan touch on Beijing red lines against what it sees as meddling in China's domestic affairs. Beijing will have ample opportunity to voice its displeasure at an annual confab on Thursday and Friday attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and dozens of other officials.

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