by Staff Writers
Honolulu (AFP) Nov 10, 2011
The United States on Thursday pressed China for reform on human rights and its economy, making a bid to set the rules for a fast-growing Asia as it welcomed Pacific Rim leaders to a Hawaii summit.
As police sealed off Honolulu's famed Waikiki Beach, leaders began to arrive for the weekend talks including President Hu Jintao of China, which days earlier criticized the US goals for the summit as overly ambitious.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, previewing the US message for the summit of the 21-member APEC forum, said the region stands at a "pivot point" as it becomes "the world's strategic and economic center of gravity."
Saying that the post-World War II institutions between the United States and Europe had paid "remarkable dividends," Clinton said the time had come for "a more dynamic and durable trans-Pacific system."
Such an order "will promote security, prosperity, and universal values; resolve differences among nations; foster trust and accountability; and encourage effective cooperation on the scale that today's challenges demand," Clinton said in a speech at Honolulu's East-West Center.
The top US diplomat insisted that the United States welcomed a "thriving China," saying it was not in either country's interest for Washington to try to contain the rising Asian power.
But Clinton, who later headed into talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, voiced concern about Beijing's record both on human rights and the economy.
"We are alarmed by recent incidents in Tibet of young people lighting themselves on fire in desperate acts of protest, as well as the continued house arrest of the Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng," she said.
"We continue to call on China to embrace a different path."
Ethnically Tibetan areas of China have seen a wave of self-immolations by Buddhist monks and nuns in protest at what they see as Beijing's stifling rule. Rights groups say at least five monks and two nuns have died.
Chen, a blind, self-trained lawyer who exposes abuses in China's one-child policy, was released from prison last year. But rights campaigners say he and his wife were severely beaten earlier this year in apparent retaliation for a video smuggled out of their home in which Chen railed about his house arrest.
Chinese activists organized through the Internet have been flocking to his village in recent weeks in hopes of freeing him from house arrest, but campaigners say that paid thugs have beaten up all who come close.
The United States hopes to point to concrete results from its chairmanship of APEC, or the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and finance ministers met Thursday to find ways to shield the region from chaos in the eurozone.
The United States is expected to announce a tentative free trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership with eight other nations -- Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is seriously considering bringing the world's third largest economy into the talks, a step that would move the once-obscure pact closer to becoming an Asia-wide trade deal.
US President Barack Obama, who will lead the weekend talks in his native state, hopes that such trade deals will ramp up US exports and create badly needed jobs, his top priority as he seeks re-election next year.
Clinton described the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a new type of trade deal that is "not merely a matter of economics" but also an agreement of values -- such as openness, freedom and fairness.
"The United States will continue to make the case that, as a region, we must pursue not just more growth, but better growth," Clinton said.
Critics point out that the pact includes communist Vietnam and say that the agreement's details are vague. The pact has sparked opposition among farmers in Japan and the United States who both fear growing competition.
China is not part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and on Monday questioned US goals for the summit as a whole, including a goal of reducing tariffs on green goods within the APEC bloc.
"It seems that the current goals put out by the US side are too ambitious and beyond the reach of developing economies," assistant foreign minister Wu Hailong said.
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US Pacific fleet commander warns of tactical missteps
Hong Kong (AFP) Nov 9, 2011
The US Seventh Fleet commander said Wednesday he was not worried about a major conflict in Asia but about small incidents with unpredictable consequences in areas such as the South China Sea. Vice Admiral Scott Swift said military-to-military dialogue between Washington and Beijing was taking place at the highest levels of command and both sides shared a desire to minimise tensions. "I t ... read more
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