Republican vice presidential candidate George Bush declined to clarify his running mate Ronald Reagan's stand on Taiwan today despite persistent questioning from both Chinese and American journalists upon his arrival in Peking.
Asked at the airport if he could clear up the confusion over presidential candidate Reagan's support for official U.S. relations with Taiwan, Bush said, "We will clear it up after I clear it up with our hosts. I would expect that there will be very little to clear up."
Bush appeared on the defensive in trying to respond to a sharp official Chinese attack on Reagan's statement Saturday that the United States should restore some official link with Taiwan. When the Carter administration recognized Peking last year, it cut all official ties with Taiwan and left only an American "institute" staffed by temporarily retired State Department personnel.
Soon after Bush stepped off a flight from Tokyo, where he had also declined to clarify Reagan's stand, he was approached by New China News Agency correspondent Zou Lifang. Chinese journalists tend to hang back and let American reporters ask the questions, but Zhou this time repeatedly queried Bush about his stance on Taiwan as he walked along the airport corridor.
"We intend to operate under our law just as you operate under your law," Bush told Zhou, referring to the Taiwan Relations Act, which opened the way for the unofficial American Institute in Taiwan. "No new law, no new ground, no setting the clock back. . . . Please be careful how you represent our position." Zhou continued to press Bush about Reagan's use of the words "official" and "governmental" -- to the Chinese a sign of a serious change of policy toward Taiwan. Bush only cautioned Zhou to read Repulican policy statements carefully.
Bush later met with Hao Deqing, president of the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs for 90 minutes and attended a banquet hosted by Hao. He had been greeted at the airport by the institute's secretary general, Xie Li, and the former deputy head of China's liaison office in Washington and now chief America-watcher for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Han Xu. When a reporter asked what Bush would say about Reagan's statement, Han said: "We'd like to know too." Reagan indicated Saturday that he thought the Taiwan Relations Act would allow an official presence, but the act seems to permit only unofficial ties.
Bush served as the U.S. envoy in Peking from October 1975 to December 1975 and visited here in 1977. He and his wife, Barbara, were greeted warmly by Chinese officials they had known. He sought to emphasize in a brief airport statement the importance he and Reagan attached to improved relations with Peking. "China's influence in foreign affairs continues to grow and the importance of China is recognized by all Americans," Bush said.
Reagan told reporters Saturday that he favored establishment of an official liaison office in Taiwan. The official People's Daily here yesterday labeled that statement "sheer deception," one that would restore a "two Chinas" policy, which is anathema to Peking, and "in essence destroy" the basis for normalized U.S.-Chinese relations.
Bush's press secretary, Peter Teeley, said tonight that Bush had not spoken to Reagan since the Chinese statement but that Reagan foreign policy advisor Richard Allen, traveling with Bush, had discussed the statement with Reagan's office. Teeley declined, however, to discuss the substance of Bush's talks today, saying Bush preferred to wait until after he talked with Foreign Minister Huang Hua Thursday. Bush also is said to hope to meet with Communist Party Vice Chairman Deng Xiaoping, China's most influential leader, during his three-day visit.