|AMBASSADOR LI ZHAOXING|
May 10, 1999
The Chinese government has denounced NATO's accidental bombing of its embassy in Belgrade and has called for a thorough investigation of the incident. China's ambassador to the U.S., Li Zhaoxing, discusses the bombing with Jim Lehrer.
JIM LEHRER: The Chinese Ambassador to the United States: Li Zhaoxing is with us now. Mr. Ambassador, welcome.
LI ZHAOXING, Chinese Ambassador to the United States: Thank you.
|Was the bombing an accident?|
JIM LEHRER: Fundamental question: Do you believe the bombing was a mistake and accident?
LI ZHAOXING: I believe nobody would take such a brutal bombing as something out of a casual mistake before a thorough investigation is carried out.
JIM LEHRER: So you don't believe what Secretary Cohen said today, what Secretary Albright said and what the president said?
LI ZHAOXING: To begin with, for such a very serious event, an event resorting in the severe and serious casualty of Chinese people's lives and in the infringement on Chinese national sovereignty, a thorough investigation is certainly necessary and indispensable.
JIM LEHRER: But my question is: do you believe that it was an accident?
LI ZHAOXING: Nobody, I believe, if he is serious and he has some conscience and he has some good reason can believe that before any serious investigation has been carried out in a comprehensive manner. As a matter of fact, the Chinese foreign minister has just made four requests to the American government through the embassy in Beijing.
JIM LEHRER: What are they?
LI ZHAOXING: One, To make an open and official apology to the Chinese government, the Chinese people and relatives of the Chinese victims. Two, to carry out a complete and a thorough investigation of the NATO missile attack on China's embassy in Yugoslavia. Three, to promptly publicize the detailed results of the investigation and to severely punish those responsible for this attack.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Now, the president has already apologized twice. Secretary of State Albright came and talked to you on Saturday night for an hour. She apologized again today. Secretary Cohen apologized. What more do you want the United States to do in the way of an apology? That's article one. Your number one demand.
LI ZHAOXING: I've told you that these four requests have to be met.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Do you think...
LI ZHAOXING: To begin with, it also depends what kind of apology. If you just say "sorry" and walk away without doing anything else in a thorough manner this will only add the anger and indignation of the Chinese people. Just now before I came in, your network was broadcasting a senator's statement. He said something to the effect that "well, we have already said sorry. The matter is over." I'm wondering how could a man of good conscience say this when so many Chinese were killed, so many were wounded, and he was saying that this is over. I believe if his wife were killed, if his son or daughter were killed, he wouldn't say that. Do you agree with me?
JIM LEHRER: Well sir, you didn't hear that on our network. I was just told you heard that on CNN. I was just told by... you did not hear that on this program or on PBS. But let me just ask you the other question that an American would ask you. Why would you believe that the United States of America would deliberately target the embassy of China in downtown Belgrade and kill Chinese citizens?
LI ZHAOXING: I'm saying that the Chinese people and the Chinese government are requesting a thorough investigation of the NATO missile attack on our embassy in Yugoslavia.
JIM LEHRER: Yes, sir. But my question is: why would you think that it would not be an accident or a mistake? In other words, why would you think-- to repeat my question, why would you think that the United States would intentionally kill Chinese citizens in downtown Belgrade?
LI ZHAOXING: Ask your own people. Ask your own officials. Ask your own experts. If they ask themselves, seriously, honestly, do they really believe that this is simply a kind of mistake? America is the biggest military power in the world. NATO is the most powerful force in the whole world. And you are always so proud of your intelligence network, and you are saying to begin with, in the first few hours, well, they were trying to attack a building nearby the embassy. Then they were changing their mind to say that they were using an old map. Is this the way of doing things by NATO forces or by American intelligence agencies?
JIM LEHRER: You heard what the secretary of defense said at 3 o'clock this afternoon, which was-- we just ran the piece. He said they -- they've only begun an initial investigation. After 48 hours, here's what they believed happened, and the briefing we've just heard from Mr. Barry of Newsweek magazine and the secretary of defense said a full investigation is under way. But that's not good enough? I mean, I'm just trying to understand what it is the Chinese want the US to do that they're not doing right now.
LI ZHAOXING: Even the-- secretary of defense said that this investigation is only preliminary in nature. But this is a serious matter, a serious event. There are so many casualties. We demand a thorough investigation. We want the whole details. We want the people to be held responsible and accountable for this big tragedy.
JIM LEHRER: Are you suggesting that that is not the intention of the United States, to do exactly what you-- in other words, to conduct a full investigation and hold the people responsible for this?
LI ZHAOXING: We attach more to facts, rather than words. No matter how eloquent one could be.
|The protests in Beijing.|
LEHRER: Why did the Chinese government encourage these violent demonstrations
against the US embassy in Beijing?
LI ZHAOXING: To begin with, this question was put in the wrong context, in the wrong way. Do you sincerely believe, think they believe that the Chinese people and the Chinese students had to be mobilized by the government to demonstrate and to condemn the U.S.-led NATO atrocities? No. If anyone should believe that, they are underestimating -- They are underestimating -- the people of China, the students of China.
JIM LEHRER: That goes back to the end of my question. Why would the Chinese people believe that a NATO operation aimed at stopping ethnic cleansing in Kosovo would, in fact, intentionally bomb the Chinese embassy in Belgrade? I'm just trying to understand why the Chinese people would be so angry and assume that the US was doing this intentionally?
LI ZHAOXING: You know China is opposed to anything like ethnic cleansing. And now what you are suggesting or indicating is-- well, we have killed some Chinese. But that's because we are doing something good. This has been going too far. This will further indemnify the Chinese people and students.
JIM LEHRER: The-- it's been widely reported today that what has not been reported to the Chinese people is why NATO is bombing Belgrade, not the Chinese embassy, but bombing targets in Belgrade. Is that true? Is that, in fact, true?
LI ZHAOXING: The Chinese people are angry and indignant because the U.S.-led NATO forces have killed so many Chinese and wounded so many more. And besides, this is a violation of China's national sovereignty, a violation of international law and international laws governing relations among countries.
JIM LEHRER: But back to my fundamental question. Do you believe that the Chinese believe that the US and NATO did this intentionally?
LI ZHAOXING: We need a serious, thorough, and comprehensive investigation of the matter. You cannot release a statement - right? -- basically on your analysis, your theoretical belief. We should attach importance to facts, facts are more eloquent than any body or than any politician.
|China will continue to protect US embassy.|
JIM LEHRER: Is Ambassador Sasser, the US Ambassador of Beijing and the people that work for him, are they safe? Are they now being protected by the Chinese government from demonstrators?
LI ZHAOXING: The government is protecting foreign embassies and their staff members in accordance with law, both Chinese laws and international laws. I talked with the ambassador, about one and a half days ago. I know that the ambassador is still working in Beijing.
JIM LEHRER: So he's okay, though.
LI ZHAOXING: Do you think otherwise?
JIM LEHRER: I mean, for two days, he couldn't get out of the embassy, be he can get out now.
LI ZHAOXING: I just heard from your people that you are making contact with him.
JIM LEHRER: Right. Right. From the Chinese government point of view, my question is, that those folks in there, the Americans are safe in there now, is that correct? I don't know what he told you. From the government's point of view, your point of view.
LI ZHAOXING: I'm quite surprised by your question. I've told that you they are safe. But I'm surprised, or taken aback, the absence of the fact that you didn't measure the basic fact that China's national sovereignty was injured, was violated. Chinese people, innocent people were killed. These are the basic facts. But you didn't touch upon this in your basic question.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Ambassador, we reported that. That's the whole reason we're doing this. That's the reason I'm interviewing you because that happened. If that hadn't happened, we would not be here talking tonight.
LI ZHAOXING: For me, that's my biggest concern. This is why I'm so sad. That's why the Chinese nation is so saddened.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much.
LI ZHAOXING: Thank you.