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Top US senator: China tour helped build trust

Engage China on rifts, Indonesia leader says
Washington (AFP) April 26, 2011 - China needs to be brought into regional dialogue to ensure a peaceful resolution to tensions over the South China Sea, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said.

Speaking to US public television, the Indonesian leader acknowledged sensitivities in Southeast Asia about Beijing's rise but said he believed that in time China "could be a good friend for everybody."

"I think, why don't we encourage dialogue that can also bring China in it if you can discuss how to maintain stability and order in South China Sea... I believe that we could avoid tensions in the region," Yudhoyono told "The Charlie Rose Show" in an interview broadcast late Monday.

"In my view, we should have a general talk with China that the expectations of the countries in the region to deal with anything peacefully, politically, and China should be part of that kind of framework."

China's relations with many of its neighbors have soured in recent years due to what many view as Beijing's new assertiveness over maritime territorial disputes, particularly with Japan and Vietnam.

China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed in 2002 to develop a code of conduct for the South China Sea. But there has been little progress, with China seen as hoping to settle disputes one-by-one instead of negotiating with ASEAN as a whole.

Yudhoyono said he welcomed an active role by the United States in Southeast Asia. The administration of President Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, has put a renewed focus on engaging the economically dynamic region.

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 26, 2011
A high-powered US Senate delegation to China helped build "mutual trust" in talks on human rights, economic disputes, clean energy, and Iran's suspect nuclear drive, its leader said Tuesday.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who headed the 10-member group, said the week-long visit's "primary focus" had been to secure "a level playing field" for US businesses in China.

"The world needs its two largest economies to work together. We have to communicate and build mutual trust," Reid said in a statement issued after the group returned home. "Our meetings in China helped improve that relationship."

At the same time, Reid said, "our experience there was an unmistakable reminder of just how hard we have to work to make American more competitive with the rest of the world."

The lawmakers met with parliamentary chief Wu Bangguo and Vice President Xi Jinping, who is widely expected to succeed President Hu Jintao as China's top leader by 2013, as well as outgoing US Ambassador Jon Huntsman and US business executives in China.

"The primary focus of this trip centered on strengthening America's manufacturing sector and urging a level playing field for US businesses," notably on the issue of China's currency, said Reid.

The senators urged Beijing to be "more aggressive" in letting the yuan gain value against the dollar, amid charges in the US Congress that the Asian giant keeps its currency, and thus its exports, artificially cheap, hurting US exports and stifling job growth.

But "Chinese officials confirmed that China would continue the managed appreciation of its currency," said the statement.

The lawmakers also "raised strong concerns about other trade barriers," including Beijing's policy of favoring "indigenous innovation" over US goods in government contracts.

Reid said the lawmakers had brought up "concern" about Beijing's rights record and a crackdown on dissidents "during multiple meetings with Chinese officials" but made clear there had been no breakthrough on the issue.

"While differences of opinion remain, both sides agreed to continue discussing this issue, an encouraging step that the delegation hopes will eventually lead China to protect the internationally recognized rights to freedom of expression, religion, and association," he said.

The lawmakers and their hosts also "discussed the importance of stability in the Korean Peninsula and the dangers of a nuclear Iran, as well the importance of maintaining an open line of communication to address potential threats."

And the senators "spent a great deal of time learning more about China's aggressive investments in clean energy," an issue of particular interest to Reid's home state of Nevada.

The Las Vegas Sun newspaper reported last week that China has thrown its vast and expanding financial muscle behind a wind-turbine manufacturing plant that could bring 1,000 jobs to the recession-battered state.

"China isn't investing so heavily in clean energy just because it's good for the environment -- it's doing so because it's good for the economy," Reid said.

"We can't afford not to be a globally competitive leader in this important area," said Reid.

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Australians see China as military threat: poll
Sydney (AFP) April 25, 2011
Almost half of Australians believe China will become a military threat in the next 20 years and a majority believe Canberra is allowing too much Chinese investment, according to a poll released Monday. The survey of 1,002 Australians, commissioned by the Lowy Institute foreign policy thinktank, found 44 percent saw China as a looming defence threat. Of those, 87 percent said it would be ... read more

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