US, China pledge cooperation

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, vowed on Wednesday that their countries would cooperate closely despite differences on China’s currency and other issues.

“We are preparing diligently for the upcoming state visit by [Chinese] President Hu Jintao,” scheduled for January 19, Clinton said as she posed for photographs with Yang at the State Department.

“And both the minister and I feel a great sense of responsibility to ensure that it continues the positive, cooperative comprehensive relationship between our two countries,” the chief US diplomat said.

Yang said: “I think China-US relationship is on the right track.

“It’s in the best interests of China, the United States and the world for us to continue to work together so that our relationship will bring more benefits to both our two peoples and to the people of the world,” he said.

Preparations for Hu’s visit are “proceeding very well”, Yang added.

As part of the preparations, Yang met US President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday to discuss the row over the Chinese yuan, US-China trade, Iran’s nuclear programme, North Korea and the upcoming referendum in Sudan.

Iran, North Korea, efforts to fight climate change and the issue of disputed US weapons sales to Taiwan came up during Clinton’s two hours of talks with Yang, Clinton spokesperson Philip Crowley told reporters.

Crowley said the pair also discussed “maritime issues,” an allusion to concerns about China’s assertive stance towards islands in the South China and East China seas which are also claimed by other countries in the region.

He gave few details about each issue.

Pressure
The White House has signalled it will keep up pressure on Beijing to allow its yuan currency to appreciate. Critics say China keeps the yuan undervalued to gain an unfair trade advantage that has cost thousands of US jobs.

“China plays an enormously important role in our global economy, and China has to take steps to rebalance its currency,” White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs told reporters on Wednesday.

“And the president will continue to make that point when President Hu is here, as he did with the foreign minister,” he said.

Gibbs said human rights, the global economy, and North Korea will be on the agenda.

Washington has been urging China to rein in its Communist ally North Korea, which in November shelled a South Korean island, killing four people.

Crowley said both Beijing and Washington shared the interests of ensuring stability on the Korean peninsula. “We both want to see a reduction of tension,” he added.

Gibbs also dismissed criticism that Obama had soft-pedalled human rights with China, saying he had raised the issue personally with Hu himself.—AFP

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