Bush Halts Arms Sales Over China Repression

Times Staff Writer

President Bush suspended all U.S. military sales to China on Monday to protest the Chinese army’s violent suppression of the pro-democracy movement.

“It is very important the Chinese leaders know it’s not going to be business as usual,” Bush declared in a press conference announcing his decision.

Bush’s action, which also included a suspension of visits between U.S. and Chinese military leaders, won immediate praise across the political spectrum in Congress, where it was generally viewed as a sufficient response for the current situation.

$600 Million in Arms


The sales halt will affect more than $600 million in arms ordered by China from the U.S. government, as well as commercial military sales of an undetermined value, U.S. officials said.

“The United States cannot condone the violent attacks and cannot ignore the consequences for our relationship with China, which has been built on a foundation of broad support by the American people,” Bush said.

However, he added, “this is not the time for an emotional response, but for a reasoned, careful action that takes into account both our long-term interests and recognition of a complex internal situation in China.”

Bush seemed to have been moved by accounts of a Chinese man who halted a column of 10 tanks and 10 armored personnel carriers Monday near Tian An Men Square. He stood in front of the lead tank, climbed up on it and talked to someone inside, then climbed down and walked away.


Overcoming Repression

Referring to the incident, the President told reporters, “I believe the forces of democracy are so powerful, and when you see them, as recently as this morning--a single student standing in front of a tank, and then, I might add, seeing the tank driver exercise restraint--I’m convinced that the forces of democracy are going to overcome these unfortunate events in Tian An Men Square.”

The President’s move to suspend military sales was designed to take concrete, punitive action against the Chinese government for killing hundreds--and perhaps thousands--of Chinese students in breaking up pro-democracy demonstrations, while avoiding sweeping sanctions that would wipe out the last decade’s improvements in Sino-American relations.

Stronger action that might harm the Chinese people or “the relationship he has worked so long on” with the nation would be counterproductive, an Administration official said.


In addition to the punitive action, Bush pledged a “sympathetic review of requests by Chinese students in the United States to extend their stay.” There are approximately 40,000 Chinese students in this country.

He offered Red Cross “humanitarian and medical assistance” to those injured in the violence over the weekend, which he said was conducted by “elements of the Chinese army . . . brutally suppressing popular and peaceful demonstrations.”

Bush did not rule out taking stronger measures in the future, which could include trade sanctions or even a suspension of diplomatic relations. He said he would review “other aspects of our bilateral relationship as events in China continue to unfold.”

Meets Congressional Leaders


After congressional leaders met with Bush at the White House, Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the imposition of economic sanctions “was left open depending on how the Chinese behave.”

The military sales order followed a Bush statement Saturday deploring the Chinese military’s use of tanks, armored personnel carriers and automatic weapons fire to rout the student demonstrators. As reports of the bloody confrontation emerged, members of Congress began pressing for immediate, concrete action to back up the rhetoric.

“I support 100% the words and the deeds of the President of the United States,” said Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), a frequent critic of Bush’s policies, after the announcement. “I think he’s shown knowledge, judgment, firmness and appropriate restraint. . . . I don’t think President Bush should do anything else immediately.”

Helms Seeks Stronger Curbs


Other lawmakers echoed that assessment, but conservative Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) said he believes the Administration should go further. He announced that he would offer legislation today that would cut off all trade, investment and financial dealings between the United States and China unless the Chinese government halts its use of violence to quell the protests.

“You cannot deal with rattlesnakes, and you cannot deal with Communist governments,” said Helms. “There is no such thing as a moderate Communist government. They are all rattlesnakes and they will turn around and bite you when the occasion arises.”

Since 1984, when then-President Ronald Reagan agreed for the first time to allow cash sales of American military hardware to China, four transactions have been approved, according to Pentagon officials. They are:

-- A$28-million program to build two artillery ammunition factories. All the hardware has been shipped but the plants are not operational. The two contractors involved are Mason and Hanger Co. of Burlington, Iowa, and Hamilton Technology Inc. of Lancaster, Pa.


-- A $502-million electronics equipment upgrade for China’s F-8 fighter jets. The equipment is being manufactured by Grumman Corp. of Bethpage, N.Y., but none has been delivered.

-- An $8.5-million sale of four Mark 46 anti-submarine torpedoes. The Navy has delivered test equipment and launchers but the torpedoes have not yet been shipped.

-- A $62.5-million program to provide four ground-based artillery-locating radar sets. Contractor Hughes Aircraft Co. of Fullerton delivered two of the radars in March, 1988; two more are scheduled to be delivered next March.

10% Already Shipped


Overall, about 10% of the equipment has been shipped and paid for, a Pentagon official said. Delivery of the rest of the material and continuing technical assistance has been suspended, the official said.

In addition, State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said that all U.S. commercial military transactions have been frozen. Last year, the U.S. government approved $85 million in such sales; no accurate figures are available for this year, she said.

Bush, who returned to the White House Sunday afternoon after a weeklong trip to Europe and a weekend in Kennebunkport, Me., met early Monday morning with Secretary of State James A. Baker III to review the recommendations of an inter-agency task force that began drawing up possible U.S. measures on Saturday, an Administration official said.

Voicing little hope that the United States and China can avoid a falling-out over the handling of the protests, the official said “relations, short-term anyway, are probably going to be worse.”


Bush, speaking with reporters, said the United States must use caution, and “react to setbacks in a way which stimulates rather than stifles progress toward open and representative systems.”

No ‘Flamboyant’ Steps

The President, who met during the day with a small group of Chinese graduate students studying in the United States, defended his decision not to impose economic sanctions or to take “flamboyant” steps.

“This relationship is vital to the United States of America,” he said at his hastily called news conference.


“On the commercial side, I don’t want to hurt the Chinese people. Commercial contacts have led in essence to this quest for more freedom,” Bush said.

In addition, he said that recalling U.S. Ambassador James R. Lilley “would be 180 degrees wrong.” Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) had recommended such a step.

Said Bush, who served as head of the U.S. liaison office in China for one year beginning in October, 1974, “Our ambassador provides one of the best listening posts we have in China. . . . So let others make proposals that, in my view, don’t make much sense. I want to see us stay involved and continue to work for restraint and for human rights and for democracy.

“Down the road,” he said, “we have enormous commonality of interests with China, but it will not be the same under a brutal and repressive regime.”



The sanctions that President Bush announced Monday will affect more than $600 million in current official U.S. arms sales to China, U.S. officials said. In addition, commercial military sales involving an undetermined value also were suspended.

In 1984, former President Reagan agreed for first time to allow cash sales of American military hardware to China. Since then, four transactions have been approved, according to Pentagon officials: A $28-million program to build two artillery ammunition factories. All hardware shipped, but plants not operational. Contractors: Mason and Hanger Co., of Burlington, Iowa, and Hamilton Technology, Inc. of Lancaster, Pa.

A $502-million electronics-gear upgrade for China’s F-8 fighter jets. Equipment being manufactured by Grumman Corp. of Bethpage, N.Y.; none yet delivered.


The $8.5-million sale of four Mark 46 anti-submarine torpedoes. Navy delivered test equipment and launchers; torpedoes not yet shipped.

A $62.5-million program to provide four ground-based, artillery-locating radar sets. Contractor Hughes Aircraft Co. of Fullerton delivered two sets in March, 1988; two scheduled for next March.

Times staff writers John Broder and Sara Fritz also contributed to this article.