Washington. A senior White House official said on Sunday that President Barack Obama wanted to strike an “appropriate balance” in dealing with a Chinese dissident who fled house arrest last week and reportedly is under the protection of the US Embassy in Beijing.
Comments by John Brennan, Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, were the closest the administration has come to confirming the whereabouts of dissident lawyer Chen Guangcheng and the difficulty the situation poses for US policymakers.
The president tries to “balance our commitment to human rights” while continuing “to carry out our relationships with key countries overseas,” Brennan said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“We are going to make sure that we do this in the appropriate way and that appropriate balance is struck.”
Obama “has faced similar situations in the past in terms of this balancing requirement,” Brennan said, and he “will do whatever he thinks is in the best interest of the United States as well as the individuals involved.”
Both the US and Chinese governments have studiously avoided confirming Chen’s whereabouts, adhering to uniform “no information” comments.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said in a statement on Sunday that he hoped the United States “will take every measure to ensure that Chen and his family members are protected from further persecution.”
He said US policy toward China must address human rights violations: “Our country must play a strong role in urging reform in China and supporting those fighting for the freedoms we enjoy.”
The incident comes at a particularly dicey time for US-China relations, on the heels of the appearance of a senior Chinese law enforcement official at the US consulate in Chengdu with information that brought down a senior Communist Party boss, and on the eve of this week’s visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for high-level economic and strategy talks.
Kurt Campbell, the State Department’s top diplomat for East Asia, appeared on Sunday in Beijing on an unannounced trip, apparently to deal with the Chen situation in advance of Clinton’s arrival. The State Department declined to even confirm Campbell’s presence in the Chinese capital, although he was photographed at a Beijing hotel early on Sunday.
Brennan made the rounds of three Sunday talk shows to mark the first anniversary of the US Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Although the administration had indicated that US security was on heightened vigilance against a terrorist attack to mark the date, Brennan said on ABC’s “This Week:” “At this time, we don’t see any active plot that is under way.”
Bin Laden’s death “made a tremendous difference,” he said. “It has taken away the founding leader of that organization who was … a symbol of Al Qaeda’s sort of murderous agenda worldwide.”
Although that and other numerous gains have been made against the organization, Brennan continued, “I don’t look at it as a victory. I think … that we have to destroy the organization. We have to take all of their operatives, their leaders, their training camps, take away their safe havens. And we’re not going to rest.”
The Washington Post