WASHINGTON — President Bush, acting in response to the massacre of peaceful democracy demonstrators in Beijing, suspended military sales to China today but said he does not want to break diplomatic relations.
"When you see these kids struggling for democracy and freedom, this would be a bad time for the United States to pull out," Bush said in a statement that drew support from Congress.
Speaking at a hastily called White House news conference, Bush said he believes that his actions are "going to send a strong signal" to Beijing that "it's not business as usual" now with the United States.
As troops and tanks took up combat positions in the Chinese capital and as estimates of the dead and wounded reached into the thousands, Bush deplored the violence: "I now call on the Chinese leadership publicly, as I have in private channels, to avoid violence and to return to the previous policy of restraint."
As for the United States, he said, "this is not the time for an emotional response but for a reasoned, careful action that takes into account both our long-term interests and recognition of a complex internal situation."
Review of Student Requests
Bush suspended "government-to-government sales and commercial exports of weapons," as well as exchange visits by American and Chinese military leaders.
A White House spokesman said four military sales projects totaling more than $600 million, most of it for development of avionics for an F-8 intercept jet fighter, will be halted.
The President's action does not involve non-military trade, which in 1987 totaled more than $10 billion, the spokesman said.
In addition to suspending weapons sales, Bush said that there will be a "sympathetic review" of requests by Chinese students to extend their stay in the United States and that humanitarian and medical aid will be offered through the Red Cross.
In addition, Bush, a former U.S. envoy to China, announced a review "of other aspects of our bilateral relationship as events in China continue to unfold."
Won't Recall Envoy
Bush said it would be "180 degrees wrong" to recall the new U.S. ambassador to China, James Lilley, a former top CIA official, since it would deprive the United States of "the best listening post" in Asia.
Chairman Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) of the Senate Armed Services Committee said he fully supports Bush's suspension of military sales.
"Because the Chinese situation is still in considerable turmoil, we will need to watch developments there carefully to determine what additional measures are necessary," he said.
Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) said on Cable News Network, "I give the President an A-plus for his words, for the diplomacy and directness and knowledge he displayed when he handled probing delicate questions and for the actions he has taken."
The State Department later announced that all American students in Beijing are being advised to leave the campuses and gather in hotels because of the chaotic situation.