US, China try to defuse tension, focus on economy

11:22, 12 March 2009
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With China also angry...

US President Barack Obama has invited Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to the White House after both powers tried to defuse military tensions and focus on stabilizing the global economy, according to AFP.

With China also angry at US criticism over Tibet, Obama is making the gesture to meet the foreign minister following his talks Wednesday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

It comes after Clinton said she and Yang agreed to ensure there would be no repeat of a standoff on Sunday between a US Navy surveillance ship and Chinese patrol boats in the South China Sea.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters than Yang and Obama -- joined by US national security advisor James Jones -- would discuss the standoff among other issues such as the global economic crisis.

"I don`t think it will overshadow it, but I think the president will continue to make clear our country`s position," Gibbs told reporters.

With only a few weeks in office, Obama`s meeting with Yang is symbolic -- something which is not standard protocol but has been used sparingly by previous presidents. Yang also met former president George W. Bush.

Yang came here to work with Clinton and Geithner to prepare for the G20 summit of industrial and developing nations next month in London, where Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao are to meet for the first time.

The summit is tasked with divising ways to solve the international credit crunch.

After her talks with Yang, Clinton said the two powers share "responsibility to help ensure the summit" produces concrete "steps toward a coordinated global response to stabilize the world economy and to begin a recovery."

In her February 21-22 visit to Beijing for talks with Yang, Hu and others, Clinton called for a deeper partnership between the United States and China, saying they needed to unite to tackle the economic crisis and climate change.

On Wednesday the US Congress nearly unanimously urged China to end "repression" in Tibet, ignoring Beijing`s warnings just as its foreign minister prepared to meet President Barack Obama.

The House of Representatives voted 422 to 1 to approve the resolution, which marks 50 years since a failed uprising in Tibet that forced the Dalai Lama into exile. Nine House members did not vote.

The resolution urges China to "cease its repression of the Tibetan people, and to lift immediately the harsh policies imposed on Tibetans."

The resolution, which does not threaten action if Beijing fails to comply, came amid heightened tensions between China and the United States after navy vessels from the two countries clashed in the South China Sea.

The Congressional resolution also called on China to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama, Tibet`s exiled spiritual leader and to "find a lasting solution to the Tibetan issue," and saluted India for hosting tens of thousands of Tibetan refugees.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said earlier that the two sides would not let disputes distract from common goals.

The spat between Washington and Beijing began after the Pentagon said Chinese vessels had harassed a US Navy ship in international waters in the South China Sea.

Beijing hit back on Tuesday, rejecting that account and demanding the United States cease what it called illegal activities in the area.

But Clinton said after two hours of talks with Yang that both sides agreed "that we must work hard in the future to avoid such incidents and to avoid this particular incident having consequences that are unforeseen."

The chief US diplomat also rejected charges from human rights activists that the Obama administration was taking too soft a line on China.

"The Obama administration is absolutely committed to a robust human rights agenda," Clinton said when asked if the administration was pulling its punches on Beijing. "There`s no doubt about our commitment."

But she vowed to "explore different ways" to fulfill the commitment as she stood by her previous approach to not let human rights concerns interfere with progress on the economy and other areas.

China warned the United States Wednesday that its criticism of the situation in Tibet could harm relations between the two nations.

On Tuesday, the White House and the US State Department voiced criticism of how China handles the Tibetan region. It marked Tuesday`s 50th anniversary of the uprising that forced the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader, to flee.

Clinton and Yang also discussed North Korean plans to launch a satellite, which Washington says amounts to test-firing a missile.

She said the United States, China and the others in the six-party talks aimed at scrapping North Korea`s nuclear program -- Japan, South Korea and Russia -- are willing to discuss a range of responses, even UN action, if Pyongyang fires a missile.

Clinton said she and Yang also discussed efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as tackle the perceived nuclear weapons threat from Iran and ease the humanitarian crisis in Sudan`s western Darfur region.

The pair also talked about fighting climate change and promoting clean energy, she added.

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