TEL AVIV (Jun. 17)
Israel established its first official presence in China with the opening Friday of an academic liaison office in Beijing.
Officials from the Chinese ministries of Health, Foreign Trade and Agriculture attended the ceremony. But there was no representative of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
The three Israelis staffing the liaison office, headed by Dr. Yosef Shalhevet, were officially welcomed by Sun Honglie, vice president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The Israeli office in the Chinese capital is the counterpart of China’s government-run travel bureau, which opened in Tel Aviv in February.
Many Western diplomats in China are reported to believe that the presence of such an office, run by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, is a significant step toward the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The agreement to exchange representatives was reached following discreet contacts at the United Nations in the fall of 1987 between Wu Xueqian, the Chinese foreign minister at the time, and Shimon Peres, then the Israeli foreign minister.
Israel and China have no diplomatic relations, and both deny frequent press reports of extensive arms dealings between them.
Shalhevet and his deputy, Yoel Guilatt, have outlined six priority areas for cooperation: agriculture, language study, environmental protection, public health, dry lands ecology and alternative energy sources.