BEIJING – Agreeing to strengthen anti-terrorism cooperation, China has promised to consider letting the United States station an FBI agent in Beijing, an American envoy said Thursday.
Francis X. Taylor, the top State Department counterterrorism official, praised China's help in tackling Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. But Taylor's account of two days of talks with Chinese officials made clear that many issues still separate the two sides.
The governments agreed to hold regular meetings of anti-terrorism officials, Taylor said.
"On counterterrorism, our relationship has been solid -- a partnership of shared interest ... toward eliminating this evil," the former Air Force general said at a news conference.
Taylor met with senior Chinese foreign affairs and military officials during the visit. It was his third meeting with Chinese officials and the first since the October meeting of Presidents Bush and Jiang Zemin.
According to Taylor, Chinese officials agreed to "actively consider" a U.S. request to open a law-enforcement liaison office in Beijing. It would be staffed by an FBI agent and handle a full range of issues, including terrorism.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States seemed to have added a sense of urgency to the proposed office which Washington had formally requested more than a year ago, according to a U.S. Embassy spokesman.
"We are optimistic that that request will be approved," Taylor said.
Despite a bumpy diplomatic period last spring after a Chinese fighter jet collided with a U.S. spy plane off China's coast, the two nations have smoothed relations and are eager to cooperate in fighting terrorism.
Nevertheless, differences over the scope of the anti-terrorism fight -- even how to define terrorism -- were readily apparent.
Taylor noted that Chinese Muslims had fought for al-Qaida in Afghanistan, but he stressed that Washington didn't support China's insistence that Muslim separatists in its northwest are part of a global terror threat.
"We discussed the fact that ... the legitimate economic and social issues that confront people in northwestern China are not necessarily counterterrorist issues, and should be resolved politically," he said.
The U.S. envoy said talks touched briefly on weapons proliferation but didn't go into detail. China is accused of supplying missile and nuclear-weapons technology to Pakistan, which was a backer of Afghanistan's former Taliban militia, which gave refuge to bin Laden.