China's foreign minister today ruled out a possible breakthrough at next month's normalization talks with the Soviet Union, saying the two communist powers had "no identical" views on major issues during their initial meeting last fall.
Only slightly more optimistic about Sino-U.S. relations, the official, Wu Xueqian, said bilateral ties can improve if Washington strictly observes "not just in words but in deeds" the joint communique obligating it to phase out weapons supplies to Taiwan. Peking, he said, is "closely following and studying the meaning" of the U.S. sale announced this week of 37 refurbished F104 jet fighters to Taiwan.
Wu made his remarks at the first news conference held by a Chinese foreign minister in 17 years. Ministry officials indicated that the session was prompted by numerous requests for interviews.
Wu stuck fast to Peking's new forcefully independent diplomatic line critical of both Washington and Moscow.
"Whichever superpower pursues a policy of seeking hegemony," he warned, "we oppose it."
Wu reiterated China's "sincere desire to improve and normalize" relations with Moscow and said that despite their inability to agree on anything substantive during the October talks here, there was a "calm atmosphere with each side reasoning things out."
He predicted the same workman-like spirit would prevail at the Moscow meeting early next month.
But Wu's forecast was less upbeat than the one given last November by his predecessor, Huang Hua, who on his return from Leonid Brezhnev's funeral in Moscow said he was "quite optimistic" about the negotiations.
"Of course, it is not realistic to expect that the question of normalization of relations between China and the Soviet Union can be solved through one or two rounds of consultations," Wu said. Negotiators "can't get anywhere just by depending on atmosphere. One has to do one or two concrete things to remove the obstacles in the way of normalization."
While mellowing its once rigid hostility toward Moscow, Peking still regards the Soviet Union as its chief security threat. As a condition for better relations, it has urged the Kremlin to pull back its troops from China's north border and Afghanistan and to cut off aid for Vietnamese forces in Cambodia.
"During the first round of consultations," said Wu, "no identical views were shared by the two sides on major issues."
Wu, while lumping together Moscow and Washington as "hegemonists," pointedly noted how last week's visit by Secretary of State George P. Shultz confirmed that China shares "identical" views with the United States on certain international issues.
He did not hesitate to point out that while Shultz discussed such issues as arms control with Chinese leaders, the upcoming Moscow talks are "quite a different matter. They will be centered around discussions of ways to normalize relations between the two countries."
Wu called Shultz's visit "useful" for clarifying the positions of both capitals. But he backed the official news agency analysis of the secretary's visit, which concluded that solid relations and mutual trust are "out of the question" so long as the Taiwan arms issue remains unsolved.
The agency report, said the foreign minister, "is not inconsistent with our evaluation of the talks."
"If the U.S. government, as stated by Secretary Shultz, will strictly implement all the principles of the joint communique . . . not just in words but in deeds," said Wu, "then, I believe Sino-American relations can develop."
In the communique issued last August, Washington pledged to gradually reduce arms sales to Taiwan with future supplies not to exceed the quality and quantity of weapons provided since 1979.
Peking agreed in turn to use peaceful means to reunify the island, which it regards as a breakaway province.
Wu said Peking now is determining whether the recent U.S. sale of old F104 jet fighters--a 1950s vintage--is in violation of the accord. The State Department said the $17.5 million sale fully conforms with the agreement, which allows Washington to replace old aircraft with new planes.