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US hopes for 'constructive' ties with new China leader
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 15, 2012

Obama to meet China, Japan PMs
Washington (AFP) Nov 15, 2012 - US President Barack Obama will meet next week with the premiers of China and Japan at a time of high tensions between Asia's two largest economies, the White House said Thursday.

Obama will meet Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Tuesday on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Cambodia, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told a press conference call.

Rhodes said that Obama will also meet in Cambodia with leaders who are part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed free trade pact. Obama will earlier visit US ally Thailand and pay a historic trip to Myanmar.

China and Japan's historically tense relations have become significantly worse in recent months as nationalist activists on both sides stake claims to islands in the East China Sea claimed by both countries.

However, Wen and Noda could both be out of office soon. China on Thursday unveiled a new leadership in which Li Keqiang is on course to become premier. Noda has called a December 16 election in which he faces a tough challenge from the conservative Liberal Democratic Party.

The United States voiced hope Thursday that China would play a greater role solving global problems as it said it expected a "constructive" relationship with Beijing's new leaders.

Hours after China unveiled a new leadership team headed by Xi Jinping, US national security adviser Tom Donilon said that President Barack Obama would keep the relationship with China as a priority as he enters his second term.

"I think we have put in place the mechanisms to have a productive and constructive relationship and look forward to working with the new leadership team in Beijing," Donilon said.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Donilon renewed US calls for China to play a role commensurate with its growing size and said Beijing's leadership was critical on issues such as North Korea, Iran, climate change and the global economy.

"The US-China relationship of course has elements of both cooperation and competition. Our consistent policy has been to seek to balance these elements in a way that increases the quality and quantity of our cooperation with China as well as our (ability) to compete," he said.

"We seek to manage disagreements and competition in a healthy, not disruptive manner. And doing so means encouraging Beijing to define its national interests more in terms of common global concerns and to take responsibility for helping the international community address global problems," he said.

Donilon, considered a dark-horse candidate to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has been a key architect of Obama's policy on China.

The Obama administration in the past two years has put a priority on reaching out to Xi, who is China's vice president and will succeed President Hu Jintao when the rubber-stamp legislature confirms the appointment in March.

"We worked well with the previous leadership team, and we look forward to working with the new Chinese leadership," confirmed deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner, speaking to journalists..

"We're committed to building a cooperative partnership with China," he said, adding "we want to cooperate on regional and global issues, and we want to deepen our people-to-people ties. And we want to obviously encourage progress on human rights."

Japan wants 'mutually beneficial' ties with new China
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 15, 2012 - Japan voiced hope for "mutually beneficial" ties with China's new leaders Thursday amid a bitter maritime dispute, but analysts said Beijing's territorial ambitions are unlikely to fade any time soon.

Relations between the two countries are some of the "most important... for Japan and China and for the whole world", said the foreign ministry's deputy press secretary Naoko Saiki in Tokyo.

"We really hope that the mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests will be further developed and enhanced with the new leadership" of China, she said.

Saiki was speaking hours after China's Communist Party unveiled a new seven-man leadership council headed by Xi Jinping to take command of the world's most populous nation for the next decade.

North Korea, which counts China as its only major ally, was swift to respond, with leader Kim Jong-Un offering "warm congratulations" to Xi.

South Korea's foreign ministry said it hoped relations would continue developing under the new leadership.

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou sent Xi congratulations and said the two sides should "strengthen mutual trust and cooperate in good faith in response to new challenges".

Xi in his reply said China and Taiwan should "build a political, economic, cultural and social basis for the peaceful development of relations".

Taiwan's ties with China have improved markedly since Ma became the island's president in 2008.

Japan's relations with its giant neighbour are more troubled despite a trade relationship worth well over $300 billion a year.

Beijing says Tokyo has failed to atone for its brutal occupation in the 1930s and 1940s, while Japan maintains it is time to move on from events more than six decades ago.

In this combustible context, the row over who owns the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands, which Beijing claims under the name Diaoyus, has been thrust once more to the fore over the last few months.

Sometimes-violent street protests targeting Japanese businesses in China and a consumer boycott of Japan-brand goods have cast a shadow over the economic relationship, which analysts say neither side can really afford.

But, they say, a reset could be a long way off.

"Even though Xi wants to improve economic ties with Japan -- namely 'cool political ties, warm economic ties' -- the two countries obviously need a new start in the political arena," said Mitsuyuki Kagami, a China expert at Aichi University.

China's vast military machine, which has connections deep inside the government, is unlikely to allow this, he said.

"Given the huge military budget and interest groups related to it, it's difficult for China to change its current course towards becoming a military power."

Japan sees China's rising military as a threat.

Norihiro Sasaki, a China expert at the Institute of Developing Economies, said it would be "rational" for Xi to seek something of a new start with Tokyo.

However, he cautioned, Japan would continue to be a convenient bogeyman for Beijing.

"Given that China is still troubled by the huge gap between rich and poor and other factors of social instability, it will at times have to take a hard line against Japan to steer dissatisfaction away from the authorities towards foreign issues," he said.

Japan's own imminent political transition -- Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is expected Friday to dissolve parliament for an election on December 16 -- could be the key to better ties.

Sasaki said Beijing will make no effort to mend fences with Noda because he was the one who nationalised the disputed islands.

Despite his hawkish rhetoric "if (opposition chief Shinzo) Abe becomes prime minister, China will find it easier to move to mend ties".

"They expect him to act pragmatically once he becomes premier."


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