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Carter Says China's Acceptance of Weapons Sales to Taiwan Key to Establishing China-US Relations

Former United States President Jimmy Carter has for the first time revealed passages from his private diary on the negotiations that established relations with China. Mr. Carter said China's acceptance of Washington's continued defensive weapons sales to Taiwan was key to the U.S. dropping of diplomatic relations with Taipei in favor of Beijing. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

During a ceremony Thursday in Beijing marking 28 years of U.S.-China relations former President Carter gave details about his two years of negotiations with Chinese officials to normalize relations in 1979.

Mr. Carter said the U.S. was determined to maintain economic relations with Taiwan and also to provide defensive weapons to the self-ruled island, which China claims as its own.

He said the U.S. agreement to drop diplomatic recognition of Taiwan for China was conditional on Beijing's acceptance that the U.S. would continue to offer defense to its long-time ally in Taipei.

"We finally reached the agreement that the United States would make public our statement, which many Chinese still don't like, that we have an obligation to help preserve the safety of the Chinese who live on Taiwan and that we would provide them with defensive weapons only, a pledge I honored, but that we knew that the Chinese would not agree with this publicly but that they would accept it privately," Mr. Carter recalled.

Beijing continues to scold Washington for its occasional weapons sales to Taiwan.

China's Foreign Ministry recently hinted the weapons sales might be one reason for Beijing's refusal to allow a scheduled Thanksgiving visit to Hong Kong by a U.S. aircraft carrier group. The last-minute cancellation upset thousands of sailors and their family members who had flown into Hong Kong for the holiday, and sent a chill over U.S.-China military relations.

The U.S. and China formally established relations on January 1, 1979. But, Mr. Carter said at the time he faced considerable opposition to the plan in the U.S. by critics who said the move would damage American credibility.

"Many people never forgave me for betraying our friends in Taiwan and returning to what President Reagan always said was 'Red China on the mainland,'" Mr. Carter said. "You have to remember that in those days Communism was the same epithet that Terrorism is now in the United States."

But Mr. Carter said he established relations with China because he foresaw China's development potential.

Mr. Carter was the 39th president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.