Sanya, China (AFP) Oct 30, 2010
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a quick visit to China Saturday to reiterate her view that Beijing must help defuse maritime disputes with its neighbours and especially Japan.
Clinton met state councillor Dai Bingguo -- China's most senior foreign policymaker -- on southern Hainan island after wading into rows which are simmering in both the East and South China Seas, at a regional summit in Hanoi.
US officials said Dai and Clinton as well as top aides met for two and a half hours at the airport in the resort town of Sanya. Clinton later travelled to Cambodia -- her third country of the day and part of a gruelling two-week tour of Asia.
A senior US State Department official told reporters on the flight to Cambodia that Dai sought to be "reassuring" about US-Chinese ties, "given the recent tensions on territorial issues, macro-economic policies and the like."
Washington and Beijing have also jousted over currency, trade, and human rights issues, but US officials say China is intent on making a success of Chinese President Hu Jintao's planned visit to the United States in January.
Earlier Saturday in Hanoi, Clinton held talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who called on Washington to avoid "irresponsible remarks" when discussing a disputed island chain over which Beijing is feuding with Tokyo.
China and Japan have been embroiled in a bruising diplomatic row for two months following a maritime incident off the islands in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, and administered by Tokyo.
Both sides claim the potentially resource-rich islets as their own, but Clinton has angered Beijing by saying they fall within the scope of the US-Japan security alliance.
"The United States has never taken a position on sovereignty but we have made it very clear that the islands are part of our mutual treaty obligations and the obligation to defend Japan," Clinton told a press conference in Hanoi.
"It is in all of our interests for China and Japan to have stable, peaceful relations," she said.
She said the United States proposed three-way talks with China and Japan at the foreign ministers level to "discuss a range of issues," but it was not clear if either side would take up the invitation.
A senior State Department official said the United States has "made it very clear to both sides that we want the temperature to go down on these (maritime) issues and we expect a constructive dialogue to resume between the two sides."
Clinton had told the 16-nation East Asia summit in Hanoi on Saturday that maritime rows should be settled by international law. China wants to handle such disputes bilaterally with its neighbours.
China claims all of the South China Sea including the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos, potentially resource-rich rocky outcrops which straddle strategic shipping lanes.
Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also have whole or partial claims over the region.
Clinton and Yang also discussed tensions over China's policy on rare earths, a group of 17 elements used to make everything from iPods to hybrid cars.
Beijing has come under criticism for its export quotas on the minerals, and Tokyo has accused it of restricting shipments to Japanese firms amid their simmering row.
Clinton said Yang had told her that Beijing -- which has a near-monopoly on the global rare earths market -- had no plans to withhold the minerals from the market, but she said the world must still look for alternative supplies.
Dai repeated Yang's point that China aimed to be a "reliable supplier," the State Department official said.
Early on Sunday Clinton arrived in Siem Reap, home of Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temple complex, before travelling to the capital, Phnom Penh, for meetings on Monday with King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
earlier related report
The East Asia Summit is a forum for dialogue on strategic, political and economic issues involving the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members as well as Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be invited to join the 16-nation annual summit in Hanoi against a background of simmering tensions between China and Japan.
Asia's two big powers have been embroiled in their worst diplomatic row in years, sparked by a territorial dispute that has escalated into protests, scrapped meetings and allegations China is freezing exports of vital minerals.
All eyes in Vietnam's capital have been on the sparring match and whether the rival premiers, China's Wen Jiabao and Japan's Naoto Kan, would hold highly anticipated direct talks.
The prospects appeared good after Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara met with his China counterpart early Friday, saying they had agreed to improve ties and that the two-way summit would "probably take place in Hanoi".
But there was confusion later as the Japanese delegation announced the leaders' meeting would take place, and then shortly afterwards retracted its statement.
China's assistant foreign affairs minister Hu Zhengyue then used extremely strong terms to condemn Japan's behaviour.
"Japanese diplomatic authorities have partnered with other nations and stepped up the heat on the Diaoyu island issue," he said, referring to disputed East China Sea islands known as the Senkaku in Japan.
He said the comments had "violated China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
"The Japanese moves, which is clear for everyone to see, have ruined the needed atmosphere for a meeting between the two leaders. Japan should take full responsibility for the result."
China also voiced strong dissatisfaction over remarks by Clinton that the disputed islands fall within the scope of the US-Japan security alliance.
"The Chinese government and people will never accept any word or deed that includes the Diaoyu (Senkaku) islands within the scope of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement on the ministry website.
The neighbours have been feuding since the September 8 arrest of a Chinese trawler captain after a collision with Japanese coastguard vessels near the disputed island chain in the resource-rich East China Sea.
Kan's spokesman Noriyuki Shikata said there was no reason for "heightened tensions... between the two countries."
"I don't see the kind of basis for that kind of reaction," he told reporters in Hanoi. "We are ready to engage in dialogue."
The United States called on China and Japan to hold talks to ease tensions.
"We want China and Japan to sit down, to have dialogue and work through the issues" surrounding disputed islands and a recent sea collision, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters in Washington.
"We would hope that both countries will take affirmative steps to de-escalate tensions around this issue and that will create the conditions for a meaningful dialogue," Crowley said.
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Commentary: Managing decline
Washington (UPI) Oct 29, 2010
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