China told to seize sea clashes

March 13, 2009 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, Mar 13 – President Barack Obama warned China’s top diplomat Thursday that both sides must not repeat their standoff at sea, while the US navy dispatched destroyers to escort future surveillance voyages.

Obama met Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi following sharp exchanges between Beijing and Washington over the incident involving a US ship and Chinese vessels on Sunday, and also over human rights in Tibet.

The talks came as major powers jostled ahead of April’s G-20 economic crisis summit in London, and with North Korea threatening to launch a satellite seen by Washington as a missile test in disguise.

Obama, making his first foray into Sino-US diplomacy, told Yang it was important to raise the level and frequency of military dialogue between the two sides to "avoid future incidents," the White House said.

National security advisor James Jones meanwhile raised the standoff between the US survey ship Impeccable and Chinese vessels in the South China Sea.

The US government said Chinese boats moved directly in front of the Navy ship, forcing it into evasive action.

China said the US ship was spying.

A US defense official said the United States decided to bolster surveillance patrols in the area with destroyers.

"Right now they are going to escort these types of ships for the foreseeable future," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A day after Sunday’s incident, the US destroyer Chung-Hoon accompanied Impeccable — an unarmed ship designed to track submarines with sonar — in the same area, the official said.

Obama also raised the issue of Tibet, the cause of early wrangles in his administration’s relationship with Beijing.

"On human rights, the president noted that the promotion of human rights is an essential aspect of US global foreign policy," the White House statement said.

"The President expressed his hope there would be progress in the dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama’s representatives."

At a lunch with a US think-tank, Yang however urged the United States to "respect" Beijing’s position on Tibet.

"Tibet is an inalienable part of China’s territory and Ticapitalfmnewn affairs are exclusively China’s internal affairs," Yang told a closed-door meeting at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"I hope that people from various sectors in the United States will appreciate these facts, and understand and respect the Chinese people’s position of upholding state sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.

The White House and State Department had earlier expressed concern about the human rights situation in Tibet, prompting strongly-worded complaints from Beijing.

Earlier, China’s official Xinhua news agency said that Yang told the United States after talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday that Washington must stop meddling in China’s internal affairs.

Beijing is fuming over a resolution that passed the US House of Representatives calling on Beijing to "cease its repression of the Ticapitalfmnewn people, and to lift immediately the harsh policies imposed on Ticapitalfmnewns."

The resolution followed a Chinese security crackdown in the Himalayan region during the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising that forced Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, into exile.

Obama and Yang agreed that China and the United States must work "closely and urgently" to stabilize the global economy.

The two sides need to stimulate "demand at home and abroad, and get credit markets flowing," the White House said.

The meeting came against a backdrop of the deepening global economic crisis, with much of the world looking for the powerhouse economies of China and the United States to chart a road to recovery.

It was set to prepare the ground for the first meeting between Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the G-20 summit of developed and developing nations in London in early April.

Obama also warned of the risks from North Korea’s missile plans and pledged to work with China to dismantle the Stalinist state’s nuclear program, the White House said, after the International Maritime Organization reported Pyongyang had announced it would launch a satellite early next month.


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