China Embassy Bombing Lands U.S. in Hot Water

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A simple apology won't necessarily be enough this time. U.S. diplomatic facilities in Chinese cities came under fire from enraged rock-throwing demonstrators Saturday, following NATO's overnight bombing of China's Belgrade embassy that killed four people and wounded 26. The error -- which NATO officials said resulted from an intelligence failure in which the building was wrongly identified as a Yugoslav arms procurement office -- may further cloud the troubled relationship between Washington and Beijing. China denounced the act as "barbaric," demanded that NATO immediately halt its bombing campaign. Russia backed that call, insisting that the peace plan agreed with NATO leaders Thursday could not be implemented before the air campaign was halted.

The embassy strike certainly adds to the geopolitical cost of the Kosovo campaign. NATO's decision to bomb Yugoslavia brought Washington's relations with Moscow to a ten-year low, and the latest tragedy may strengthen the hand of anti-Western elements within the Chinese leadership. NATO now faces the increasingly complicated challenge of maintaining its hard-won accord with Russia over the peace process at the same time as maintaining pressure on Belgrade. "NATO won't easily suspend the bombing because it knows it may be politically unable to restart it," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "The alliance may even have been planning to intensify the bombing in the hope of making Milosevic more compliant." It had been left to Russia to coax symmetrical concessions out of NATO and Belgrade to kick-start the peace process. While the Chinese embassy bombing may make the West a little more inclined toward peacemaking gestures, the storm of criticism facing NATO may also embolden Milosevic's defiance.

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