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A warning from China as Clinton arrives in Beijing

China warned the United States not to get involved in regional disputes yesterday, as US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Beijing pledging to pass on a "strong message" on the need to calm regional tensions.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, meets Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing Tuesday, Septemper 4. Photo: AP


Mrs Clinton arrived in Beijing from Jakarta late on Tuesday after talks in Indonesia which focused on territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

This is Clinton's second China trip this year and “may be her last significant visit to China — and a final opportunity to explain and reinforce the Obama administration’s complex approach to the U.S.-Sino relationship”, according to New York Times.

Mrs Clinton was met in Beijing by Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, with whom she is due to give a joint press conference later on Wednesday.

In brief public remarks, both Clinton and Yang stressed a constructive tone, with Clinton calling the US-China relationship key to the Obama administration's "pivot" to more engagement with the Asia-Pacific.

Yang said China would continue to work with Washington to forge "a new type of major country relationship."

"China stands ready to work with the US side, guided by the joint vision of our two presidents, to further push forward the China-US cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit," Yang said.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei suggested at an earlier news briefing that Washington had not been a helpful force in the maritime disputes, suggesting Clinton may face some push back in talks today.

"We have noted that the United States has stated many times that it does not take sides," he said. "We hope that the United States will abide by its promises and do more that is beneficial to regional peace and stability, and not the opposite."

In Jakarta on Monday, Clinton said it was now time to create a code of conduct for the South China Sea.

"It is time for diplomacy," she said. "We have the East Asia Summit coming up. This should be the goal that diplomacy pursues: to try to attain agreement on a robust code of conduct, to begin to try to literally calm the waters and enable people to work together toward better outcomes."

Hong said "For China, the issue is about the country's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and its interests in waters near the South China Sea," adding that China, like all other countries, had an obligation to "safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The US wants China and the other claimants to adopt a binding code of conduct for the region, along with a process to resolve maritime disputes without coercion, intimidation or the use of force. Clinton wants China to drop its insistence on settling conflicting claims with individual nations.

Chinese media has been lukewarm ahead of her visit.

"Though US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the Asia-Pacific is big enough to hold both China and the United States, Washington still need to take concrete actions to improve its ties with China," Xinhua said.

"Moreover, Washington has been trying to work with a number of South East Asian nations to force China into a multi-national solution to territorial rows in the South China Sea, despite China's strong and perennial opposition." 

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