by Staff Writers
Nusa Dua, Indonesia (AFP) Nov 19, 2011
US President Barack Obama prodded China's Premier Wen Jiabao Saturday on maritime territorial rows and economic wrangles after days of tension over Washington's Pacific diplomacy push.
The talks, arranged at short notice, followed a week of increasingly sharp exchanges between the two powers after Obama repeatedly betrayed impatience with Beijing's economic record during his tour of the Pacific.
Obama and Wen met on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit, after the Chinese premier asked for more time to continue a conversation with the US leader that began at an official dinner on Friday night.
US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said the talks focused mainly on economics, reflecting Wen's principal portfolio.
Obama discussed concerns about what Washington sees as the artificially low value of the yuan and trade disputes that he raised with China's President Hu Jintao in Hawaii last week, Donilon said.
He also mentioned South China Sea territorial disputes, which the United States wanted to discuss in general terms in the summit, but which China says should be confined to talks between the individual regional nations concerned.
"The US position here is a principled position -- the United States is a Pacific power, it is a trading power, it is a maritime power," Donilon said, adding that several Southeast Asian nations had raised maritime issues with Obama.
"The United States has an interest in the freedom of navigation, the free flow of commerce, a peaceful resolution of disputes (but) we don't have a claim, we don't take sides in the claims."
A draft communique seen by AFP said the leaders recognised "the international law of the sea contains crucial norms that contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region".
Wen and Obama met on the same day that a commentary by China's official Xinhua news agency dripped with contempt for his attempt to show that the United States considers itself a Pacific power.
This week Obama has announced a deployment of 2,500 US Marines to Australia and has also irked Beijing with his support for expanding negotiations on a pan-Pacific trade deal in which China is not included.
China sees the US Pacific initiatives as intruding into its sphere of influence, and Wen warned publicly Friday against interference by "external forces" in the territorial wrangle.
"If the United States sticks to its Cold War mentality and continues to engage with Asian nations in a self-assertive way, it is doomed to incur repulsion in the region," the Xinhua commentary said.
"It is also called upon to guard against sparking disputes and encroaching on others' interests," it added, in an apparent reference to the row over the South China Sea.
The region is a conduit for more than one-third of the world's seaborne trade and half its traffic in oil and gas, and major petroleum deposits are believed to lie below the seabed.
China claims all of it, as does Taiwan, while four Southeast Asian countries declare ownership of parts of it, with Vietnam and the Philippines accusing Chinese forces of increasing aggression there.
Chinese assistant foreign minister Liu Zhenmin sounded a much more conciliatory note, saying his country was "looking forward to cooperating with the US" as it shifts its foreign policy focus to the region.
But he staunchly defended Beijing's handling of the South China Sea, after allegations it has become more aggressive in asserting its claims in recent times.
"China has continued to allow that freedom of navigation in the region," he said.
China is also likely to be concerned by a dramatic US foray into Myanmar, its resource-rich ally and southern neighbour.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Saturday he would visit the country "as soon as possible", in the latest high-profile mission triggered by hopes of a shift to democracy.
A day earlier Obama said he would send Hillary Clinton there next month, the first visit by a US secretary of state for 50 years, as Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy said it would take part in upcoming by-elections.
Washington is looking to encourage tentative reforms by the new nominally civilian regime in a country which for decades was ruled by a military junta, and developed close ties to Beijing while the West imposed sanctions on it.
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Australia tells China not to interfere
Sydney (AFP) Nov 18, 2011
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has assured China the boosting of US troops on Australian soil was not directed at Beijing while warning the country not to interfere in Canberra's security decisions. US President Barack Obama announced in Canberra on Wednesday that the US would deploy up to 2,500 Marines in the northern city of Darwin in what many see as a counterbalance to China's growing might ... read more
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