A U.S. envoy left China on Wednesday after a fruitless bid to calm opposition to President George W. Bush's missile defence plans and with scathing accusations of anti-China "provocations" ringing in his ears.
The Bush administration decision to let Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian meet U.S. lawmakers when he transits the United States next week was a "despicable breach of trust and commitment", the official English-language China Daily newspaper said.
"Allowing Chen to stay in the United States and meet U.S. lawmakers is the latest example in a growing list of U.S. provocations directed at China," the Communist Party paper said in an angry editorial.
Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly said in a departure statement that his talks on Tuesday were "constructive", but implied - as the Chinese Foreign Ministry had made plain - there was no meeting of minds.
"Although we clearly still have differences of opinion, our consultations on this subject were constructive and constitute a good beginning to what both sides agreed would be a continuing dialogue on these important security issues," Kelly said.
IMPLACABLE OPPONENT OF BUSH PLAN
"I stressed that our plans for a missile defence system would not be a threat to China," he added.
"Rather, our approaches are intended to defend against threats or attacks from rogue states as well as from accidental or unauthorised launches."
But the Chinese Foreign Ministry made clear that nothing Kelly said to the Chinese team, which included top disarmament diplomat Sha Zukang, would budge Beijing.
"China's constant position is unchanged," Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi told a news conference on Tuesday before Kelly's talks were over.
Sun did not spell out China's unstated fears that a missile shield would negate Beijing's small strategic nuclear arsenal.
But he made clear China was not prepared to soften its opposition to a National Missile Defence (NMD) scheme and a Theatre Missile Defence (TMD), proposed to protect allies such as Japan or U.S. troops in northeast Asia.
"We are opposed to the National Missile Defence because it destroys the global strategic balance and upsets international stability," Sun said.
TAIWAN INDEPENDENCE FEARS
Sun said China was "more opposed to TMD" because it would strengthen U.S. military alliances in Asia beyond legitimate defence needs - a reference to U.S.-Japan security ties and joint studies of missile defences by Washington and Tokyo.
"We more strongly oppose calls by some people to involve Taiwan in TMD, which would violate China's sovereignty," he said of the now democratic island Beijing regards as a province that must be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Kelly said his talks also covered bilateral irritants such as Taiwan, human rights and the Hainan spy plane dispute.
The China Daily slammed Bush's promises of arms sales to Taiwan and his vow to do "whatever it took" to defend Taiwan if China were to attack, saying they would embolden separatists.
"The U.S. government should know how untrustworthy it has become and what message it has sent to Taiwan," it said.
The State Department said on Monday the United States would let Chen stop on his way to and from Latin America and meet U.S. members of Congress when in transit.
The range of activities and the permission to meet legislators mark a departure from the practice of the previous U.S. administration, which imposed tight restrictions on what visiting Taiwanese leaders could and could not do.