In the first of a regular series of working-level diplomatic meetings, the United States and the People's Republic of China agreed this week to pursue separate but "mutually reinforcing" efforts to counter the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
A Chinese delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Wenjin expressed approval of the recent anti-Soviet turn in U.S. policy in meetings with Vice President Mondale and top officials of the White House and State Department.However, the Chinese made clear their hope that more concrete U.S. action will be taken.
Among the matters discussed, according to U.S. and Chinese sources, were aid to Islamic rebels fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan and aid to the government of Pakistan next door.
According to Chinese sources, a discussion in broad term of aid to the rebels produced an understanding that both Washington and Peking will do what they can to provide assistance.
Comparing the anti-Soviet struggle in Afghanistan with the U.S. war for independence from Britain or China's World War II struggle against invading Japanese. Zhang reportedly made clear Peking's view that outside help to the Afghan rebels is legitimate and necessary. The Chinese are reported to have provided aid to rebel forces in Afghanistan over many months.
The United States is reported to have provided some covert aid, including weapons, to anti-Soviet rebels in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion in December. U.S. officials will not speak publicly of this effort, and declined to do so in talks with reporters yesterday.
In practical terms, such aid can only be supplied with the help or acquiescence of Pakistan or Iran, Afghanistan's neighbors. Under Soviet pressure, Pakistan has publicly denied that it is helping the rebels.
In the talks here, the Chinese officials is reported to have urged Washington to persevere in its efforts to forge an economic and military aid relationship with Pakistan. Zhang repeated the view of Pakistan President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq that the proposed $400 million U.S. aid program is "not sufficient." Washington officials, in turn, told the Chinese that Pakistan's public spurning of the U.S. program had been "unhelpful" to the joint cause.
On bilateral questions, China made clear that it is interested in purchasing some high-technology items with dual military-and-civilian use, as well as nonlethal U.S. military equipment, such as transport and communications gear and radar.
A Chinese military team is expected here next month to discuss details, in advance of a trip this spring by Defense Minister Xu Xiangqian.
The most important result of Zhang's meetings, according to U.S. officials, was to inaugurate normal and regular exchanges of senior diplomats of the two countries. It was the first time that a top Chinese diplomat has been here since the trip of Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping 13 months ago.
The series of diplomatic consultations will continue with a trip to Peking this spring by Reginald Bartholomew, the State Department's director of politico-military affairs, according to U.S. sources.