Presiding Bishop Criticizes Clinton Diplomacy in Wake of NATO Attack on Chinese Embassy

May 13, 1999

"It is my strong sense that, while apologies were made, qualifiers and linkages to other issues served only to further worsen the situation, showing disrespect to the Chinese people at the time of this tragedy," Griswold said, adding later, "I hope such failures on the human level can be avoided in the future."

Griswold sent a copy of the letter to Han Wenzao, president of the China Christian Council.

In addition, the presiding bishop had a wreath sent to the offices of the Chinese Mission to the United Nations with a note offering the Episcopal Church's "collective condolences to China for the deplorable bombing of your embassy in Belgrade, especially to the families of the victims."

Shortly after making the text of the letter public, Griswold issued an update on the Episcopal Church's activities in response to the Kosovo crisis.

The bombing, part of the long NATO air campaign across Yugoslavia, killed three journalists and heavily damaged the embassy building.

"I have publicly noted earlier my support of efforts to end the suffering of the Albanian Kosovars, and my complete abhorrence of Mr. Milosevic's policies and action," Griswold said. "However, the bombing of the Chinese embassy clearly shows the shortcomings of the air war." The presiding bishop reaffirmed his support for diplomatic efforts to end to the Balkan conflict.

The text of the presiding bishop's letter:

May 13, 1999

The President of the United States

The White House

Washington DC

Dear Mr. President:

NATO's bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade is lamentable enough, but the response of our country to China has compounded the offense. It is my strong sense that, while apologies were made, qualifiers and linkages to other issues served only to further worsen the situation, showing disrespect to the Chinese people at the time of this tragedy. Such a horrible event, the responsibility from which the U.S. cannot retreat, must be met with unqualified regret. My sense from on the ground in China is that this incident has been a crushing blow to the people of China, who look to the U.S. with both admiration and suspicion. I share your commitment to a long-term harmonious relationship with the people of China. I hope such failures on the human level can be avoided in the future.

I urge you to consider sending the Secretary of State to Beijing on a mission of healing and reconciliation. If appropriate and welcome, perhaps the Secretary of State could meet with the families of the victims who died to extend your personal condolences.

Mr. President, I have publicly noted earlier my support of efforts to end the suffering of the Albanian Kosovars, and my complete abhorrence of Mr. Milosevic's policies and actions. However, the bombing of the Chinese embassy clearly shows the shortcomings of the air war. Every day we add to the suffering of all the people in the region.

Please know of my continuing support of your efforts to seek every diplomatic opportunity to end the conflict, including involvement of Russia and China in that process, and placing this matter under the aegis of the United Nations. In this regard I urge you to vigorously pursue opportunities for a diplomatic solution to the current crisis, fully embracing the good offices of the Secretary General of the United Nations. I also request that you explore and consider any opportunities for mediation which may be available through intermediary governments or other recognized structures dedicated to maintaining international peace and security.

With the assurances of my support for your good office and prayers for you personally as you discharge the awesome duties of your office, I am,

Yours sincerely,

Frank T. Griswold

Presiding Bishop

XC: Dr. Han Wenzao, China Christian Council

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