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Gorbachev Says China Needs Reform : Fears Its Failure Would Hurt Efforts to Ease World Tensions

June 15, 1989|From Times Wire Services

BONN — In his first cautious criticism of the bloody events in China, Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev today expressed concern and said failure of reform there would undermine efforts to ease world tensions.

It was his first extensive statement on China since the Soviet Parliament early this month condemned all outside attempts to put pressure on Beijing and labeled the violent crushing of pro-democracy protests an internal affair.

Saying he hopes that Chinese reform will not fail, Gorbachev told a news conference here that if it does, "this could cause major damage to the process of improving relations in the world.

"We regret some aspects of what has happened," Gorbachev said at the end of a four-day visit to West Germany.

"We hope that China--its people and its government--will find a way out that lives up to the interests of the Chinese people and our general expectations."

The Soviet leader, whose visit to China coincided with the mass protests for democracy, did not directly answer a question whether the demonstrators were counter-revolutionaries, as China now says. But he said he had received letters from Chinese students who supported reform.

"In the letters, they support the same goals as the Chinese Communist Party," he said. "I cannot suspect that they had any evil intentions."

On another subject, Gorbachev was asked whether he considers the Berlin Wall, which divides the two Germanys, an unacceptable symbol of a time of more troubled relations.

"I don't think the Berlin Wall is the sole barrier between East and West," Gorbachev said. "We must improve many situations in Europe."

He observed that "nothing is eternal" and that conditions on the continent may someday make all border obstructions obsolete.

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