Bombing account 'will not be truth'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 June, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 June, 1999, 12:00am

Few Beijingers believe US envoy Thomas Pickering will deliver the truth when he offers an explanation of why Nato bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade during the air assault on Yugoslavia.

'It is impossible that the explanation will satisfy China's demands,' said Zhang Zhongyun, a professor of international politics at the Central Party School.

'If they say it was intentional, the true story will be top secret and the US cannot divulge it. So it will, instead, find an excuse to palm us off. If they say it was a mistake, they should punish the person responsible.' Professor Zhang said he did not believe the bombing was a mistake.

Under-Secretary of State Mr Pickering is due to arrive in Beijing tonight with a team of US officials to give an account to Chinese leaders of what Nato said was an accidental bombing of the embassy in Belgrade on May 7. Three mainland journalists died in the attack.

China demanded a public apology from the US, a thorough investigation, publication of the results and severe punishment of those responsible.

Gao Heng, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' World Economic and Political Research Institute, saw the four demands as a test of Washington's sincerity. 'If the US comes up with a reasonable explanation, it is not impossible for the Chinese people to accept it as a mistake,' he said.

'But the US should not think that just because China is a poor country and wants to enter the World Trade Organisation, China will make concessions on political issues. If our sovereignty is infringed upon, it is impossible for us to do business.' Beijing residents echoed the scholars' sentiments.

'The US should truthfully explain the bombing, but they will most likely just say that it was because of an old map,' said a female office worker, referring to the US explanation offered after the bombing that an outdated map had been used.

A middle-aged businessman said: 'America is an extremely powerful country. Whatever the envoy says will make sense to the Americans, but not necessarily to us.' A postgraduate student said: 'At the very least, the envoy will apologise and he should provide a detailed report whether it was an accident or for any other reason. Compensation to both the families of the three reporters and the Chinese Government should also be made.' The student said the apology from Mr Pickering would not soothe his anger.