In a new sign of cooling relations between the United States and China, the State Department announced Thursday that it has imposed the same travel restrictions on Chinese employees of the U.N. Secretariat as now are imposed on Soviet Bloc personnel.
China’s U.N. employees must give notice to the United States any time they want to travel more than 25 miles from Manhattan for anything other than official business.
In the last 10 years, the United States generally has treated China as what the State Department terms a “friendly, nonaligned country” and regularly has given China and its personnel more favorable treatment than their counterparts from the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe.
State Department officials said Thursday that there has been no change in this general approach toward China. The United States took pains to avoid any official classification of China as a nation with a “hostile intelligence service,” like that of Soviet Bloc countries.
Same as for Soviet Bloc
Nevertheless, a spokesman for the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions acknowledged that the effect of the new restrictions will be to make China’s U.N. personnel follow the same rules as Soviet Bloc personnel.
A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington said that China has “expressed our protest to the United States” over the new restrictions. He said the rules violate the U.N. Charter and other agreements and regulations covering U.N. personnel.
The American action was said to be prompted by concern about intelligence-gathering by U.N. employees. State Department officials said that there is no connection between the new restrictions on China’s U.N. personnel and a dispute between the United States and China over diplomats’ rights to travel in one another’s countries.
Chinese Espionage Seen
A recently passed law requires that the United States impose travel restrictions on U.N. employees from all countries that have “hostile intelligence services.”
Last fall, Harry J. Godfrey III, head of FBI counterintelligence in Los Angeles, said that Chinese espionage agents have surpassed the Soviets as the most active foreign spies in California.
Knowledgeable sources said that U.S. counterintelligence officials had suggested including China under the federal law as a nation with a hostile intelligence service. But the State Department successfully argued against that classification on grounds that such an action would needlessly offend China.
Labeling China in such a fashion “doesn’t seem to us to go along with our overall relations,” a State Department official said Thursday. An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the intra-agency discussions.
446 ‘Open’ U.S. Cities
A year ago, the Defense Department disclosed that it includes China in its list of nations viewed as hostile to the United States for purposes of security clearances. Pentagon regulations require that a person born in a hostile country must have lived in the United States for at least 10 years or have had American citizenship for five years before applying for a security clearance. China vehemently protested its Pentagon labeling.
In general, Chinese diplomats assigned to the United States continue to have greater freedom of movement than do their Soviet counterparts. Diplomats at the Chinese Embassy in Washington and at five Chinese consulates in New York, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles may travel freely to 446 “open” American cities.
Last year, however, the United States sought unsuccessfully to persuade China to lift rules prohibiting American diplomats working in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang from traveling out of that city by car. After China refused, the State Department retaliated by telling Chinese diplomats in Chicago that they are no longer allowed to drive outside the Chicago area. China countered with new travel restrictions on U.S. diplomats in Shanghai. All these rules remain in effect.