President Clinton arrived here this morning for a summit of Pacific nations at a time when events in the region are at a boil, with raging violence in East Timor and new tensions between China and Taiwan.
Both problems will dominate Clinton's five-day visit here, where New Zealand is hosting the annual meeting of the 21-nation Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
Clinton was to rest for several hours before heading into a summit with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, which U.S. officials have described as critical to helping repair a relationship that has suffered since the two leaders last met in Beijing 14 months ago.
Clinton hopes to continue what U.S. officials call a gradual healing process in relations with China after the accidental NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade on May 7 during the Kosovo crisis. U.S. officials said they remain hopeful that an agreement can be reached allowing Chinese membership in the World Trade Organization. But some White House officials added that a statement pledging accelerated talks is more likely than a formal agreement.
The two leaders also are set to discuss relations across the Taiwan Strait, which has grown more tense following China's outrage at a recent statement by the president of Taiwan that the two nations should deal with each other on a "state to state basis." China considers Taiwan a renegade province.
The violence in East Timor following a vote that could lead to independence was not originally on the forum agenda, but U.S. officials and leaders from other nations said they expect the deteriorating situation to dominate the talks.