Premier set for full duties
LOOKING tanned and relaxed from his sojourn at the beach resort of Beidaihe, Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng stepped into the public spotlight again yesterday formally welcoming his Thai counterpart Chuan Leekpai to Beijing.
Mr Li declared himself to be in ''very good'' health and strongly hinted that he was ready for a full resumption of his duties.
''I am working already. Look at this today,'' Mr Li said before his meeting with Mr Chuan at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman, Wu Jianmin, said at press conference later that the premier had ''made an excellent recovery'' and would be holding talks with Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao when he arrived in Beijing in early September.
Mr Wu also said the premier had ''accepted with pleasure'' an invitation to visit Thailand at his convenience.
Prior to the talks at Diaoyutai's Villa No 17, Mr Li had presided over the formal welcoming ceremony for Mr Chuan at the Great Hall of the People.
The two men stood side by side on a podium beneath the main eastern entrance to the hall while a military band played the two national anthems amid a 19-gun salute.
Wearing a dark green suit and greyish-blue tie, Mr Li then escorted his guest slowly across a red carpet to review the honour guard of soldiers from the army, navy and air force lined up in tight formation with their backs to Tiananmen Square.
Mr Li still appeared to have a slight paunch but his face was noticeably thinner. There was little interchange between the two leaders and Mr Li only occasionally forced a smile before disappearing into his limousine bound for Diaoyutai.
Yesterday's talks, Mr Li's first with a visiting head of government for two months, lasted 80 minutes and focused primarily on Sino-Thai economic and trade relations although the two premiers did discuss the Cambodian question in some detail.
Mr Li was quick to air his conservative views on the economy during the talks with Mr Chuan, expressing the hope that Thai businesses would invest in the mainland's poorer, underdeveloped hinterland.
He also played down fears that China's recent military build-up and activities in the South China Sea represented a threat to regional security.
''China pursues an independent foreign policy aimed at peace and stability,'' Mr Li was quoted as saying.
''China will not seek hegemony even if it arises elsewhere,'' Mr Li said.