Clinton Stresses Cooperation With China Amid Disputes
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and China’s leaders sought to play down differences over Asian territorial disputes and pledged closer ties even as her meeting with President Hu Jintao’s likely successor was canceled.
Speaking today at a press conference with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Beijing, Clinton addressed Chinese concerns that the U.S. is taking sides in maritime spats between China and its neighbors, including American allies Japan and the Philippines. She said the Obama administration wants to preserve freedom of navigation and urged talks to resolve the tension.
While the U.S. and China don’t “see eye to eye” on everything, “we are convinced that our two countries gain far more when we cooperate with one another than when we descend into unhealthy competition,” Clinton said. Yang echoed those remarks and called the talks “constructive and productive.”
In contrast to rhetoric in the Chinese media accusing the U.S. of stirring up discord over the maritime conflicts, Clinton and Yang stressed cooperation on issues including economic growth and diplomacy to avert nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea. Her visit comes ahead of China’s once-a-decade leadership handover and the U.S. presidential election later this year.
Clinton’s briefing with Yang was held after Vice President Xi Jinping, the leading candidate to succeed Hu when the Communist Party Congress meets, was canceled. She was told last night that Xi wouldn’t be able to meet today and had canceled other appointments as well, a U.S. State Department official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Asked if the cancellation was a snub, Yang said he hoped “people won’t have unnecessary speculation. We attach a great deal of importance to the Secretary’s visit.”
China has become increasingly assertive in the South China Sea as it looks to lock up resources to meet its demands as the world’s largest energy users. Those moves have encountered opposition from countries including Vietnam and the Philippines.
At stake are oil reserves of as much as 213 billion barrels, according to Chinese studies cited by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That compares with 265.4 billion barrels of proven reserves held by Saudi Arabia as of 2011, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.
State-run media commentaries over the last week have accused the U.S. of meddling in the South and East China Seas disputes and trying to “contain” China’s rise by expanding the American naval and military presence in the Pacific.
“Seeing the ‘pivot’ to Asia, the U.S. has fomented surrounding countries into confronting China over territorial disputes, so as to disturb and check China’s rise,” the state- run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial today. Yesterday, the Xinhua News Agency issued a commentary saying the U.S. “should stop its role as a sneaky trouble maker.”
Asked whether he shared the view that the U.S is seeking to curtail China’s rise, Yang replied that his government wants to work with the U.S. and other countries to promote “openness, inclusiveness, mutual benefit and win-win progress” in the Asia-Pacific.
“Nowhere else do China and the United States share more convergent interests and interact more frequently than in the Asia Pacific region,” Yang said. At the same time, he said China hopes the U.S. will make sure its policy is in line “with the trends of the current era and the general wish of countries in the region to seek peace, development and cooperation.”
Clinton said it’s “no secret” that the U.S. is disappointed with China and Russia for blocking tougher United Nations Security Council resolutions against Syria. The U.S. is pushing for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose government has been battling rebels for almost 18 months in a conflict that has killed more than 23,000 people, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Any solution should come from people of Syria and reflect their wishes,” Yang said. “It should not be imposed from outside.”
The two also discussed cyber attacks, which Clinton said are of “increasing concern to the business community as well as the government of the United States.”
Clinton also met today with Premier Wen Jiabao, Vice Premier Li Keqiang and State Councilor Dai Bingguo. Tomorrow, she will visit East Timor and Brunei before heading to Vladivostok, Russia, where she will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
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