WASHINGTON — In another sign of improvement in U.S.-Chinese relations, China has told the United States that it will soon send its ambassador back to Washington after a hiatus of nearly three months, U.S. officials said Monday.
The decision was relayed in weekend discussions in Beijing between top Chinese officials and Undersecretary of State Peter Tarnoff.
There was no immediate indication when Ambassador Li Daoyu will return here, but U.S. officials assume that it will be within a few weeks.
China recalled Li in June to protest the Clinton Administration's decision to let Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui make a private visit to the United States--a move that sent U.S.-Chinese relations into a tailspin. Relations were further worsened when China arrested American human rights activist Harry Wu, accusing him of espionage and stealing state secrets.
American officials campaigned for Wu's release, while at the same time reassuring Beijing that the United States still supports a "one China policy." Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province.
The Chinese convicted Wu on spying charges last week and then expelled him, allowing him to return to his home in Northern California. The White House quickly announced that First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will fly to Beijing to attend a U.N. conference on women next week. A decision on whether she would go had been delayed while Wu was in jail.
This week, U.S. officials confirmed that the Administration is considering a summit meeting this fall between President Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin. U.S. officials caution that there still are serious disagreements between the two governments on a wide array of issues, ranging from human rights to weapons proliferation.
In another sign of more normal Sino-U.S. relations, Beijing is sending a high-ranking military official to the United States this week to participate in ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. Chinese news services reported that Gen. Li Xilin, commander of the Guangzhou military region, flew to Honolulu on Monday to represent Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian. There was no indication why Chi was not attending.
Still unclear is whether Beijing intends to accept former U.S. Sen. Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.) as the new U.S. ambassador to China. Clinton has said he plans to name Sasser to the post, but China so far has not agreed.