US, China play down rivalry

2012-07-12 22:18

Phnom Penh - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi pledged on Thursday to work more closely together after talks designed to smooth their countries' often spiky relations.

After a meeting in Cambodia, Clinton highlighted areas of common interest such as disaster relief and disease control, which she said were "an important signal that the US and China not only can, but will work together in Asia".

Yang said: "China and US relations have continued to make progress this year," adding both sides had agreed to "enhance our dialogue... to continue to expand our common ground".

There have been concerns that the US's new foreign policy "pivot" to focus on Asia, where it hopes to counter China's enormous clout, could antagonise Beijing ahead of a leadership transition later this year.

The display of togetherness on the sidelines of a regional Asian security meeting came despite constant friction in the world's most significant bilateral relationship, caused by China's economic and military rise.

Clinton had been expected in Cambodia in conciliatory mood, in contrast to the Asean Regional Forum of 2010 when she angered Beijing by saying the US had a "national interest" in the disputed South China Sea.

Tensions over the sea flared again on Thursday when the Philippines accused Beijing of "duplicity, intimidation and the threat of the use of force" to stake its claim to a rocky outcrop claimed by Manila in the resource-rich sea.

On Wednesday, Japan lodged a formal complaint with China after three Chinese boats approached islands controlled by Japan in the East China Sea. Vietnam has also recently accused Beijing of aggression in contested seas.

Clinton deliberately steered clear of being drawn into the spats or pointing the finger at China, which claims almost all of the sea, but she expressed alarm about the potential for territorial disputes to escalate.

Avoid confrontation

"No nation can fail to be concerned by the increase in tensions, the uptick in confrontational rhetoric and disagreements over resource exploitation," Clinton told a press conference.

Clinton has urged progress on a long-stalled code of conduct for the South China Sea to avoid "confusion and even confrontation" over shipping and fishing rights in the waterway, which is home to key shipping lanes.

There were little signs of movement, however, with Southeast Asian nations in regional bloc Asean deeply divided over what should be included and China apparently in no mood to begin discussions, diplomats said.

China said on Wednesday it would only begin negotiating the code with Asean "when conditions are ripe".

"The qualifying statement - when the time is ripe - means that planned talks in September (to advance on formulating a code) are unlikely to take place," one Asian diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The Philippines is leading a push for Asean to unite to propose a code of conduct based on a UN law on maritime boundaries that would delineate the areas of the sea belonging to each country.

Other countries, led by staunch China ally Cambodia, are pushing back in a bid to avoid antagonising Beijing, which wants all territorial disputes to be settled bilaterally and rejects "internationalising" the issue.

Such is the discord within the 10-member Asean grouping over their approach to China that foreign ministers have been unable to agree on a joint statement, diplomats say.

Analysts say Clinton has been trying to balance support for US allies Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam - all angered by China's apparent aggression in contested seas - with efforts to keep Beijing onside.

The unexpected row between Japan and China in the East China Sea on Wednesday is also seen as likely to heighten the anxiety of China's neighbours and drive them further into the United States' orbit.

"The Chinese huff and bluff with Japan does not augur well," said Southeast Asia expert Carl Thayer, who runs a consultancy. "China's actions have certainly pushed the Philippines towards Washington."

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-12 23:20

    It's funny now the US is in decline, how Clinton is screaming for "closer global cooperation". The US has shown a level of arrogance and contemptuousness for the rest of the world that has been sickening. It has pushed around other nations politically, economically and militarily serving only its own interests. Now at last there is a power that is capable of holding two fingers towards America and so you will have to excuse the rest of the world for a bit of schadenfreude. The losers dont get to dictate the state of play anymore. Go home and get ready to work like a dog for not much money and stop complaining.

      Gareth.S.Hall - 2012-07-13 05:17

      You are just a hypocrite Fidel. You preach unity but then you gleefully enjoy racial division. The US isn't going to collapse anytime soon, and besides, who do you think is China's largest trading partner? Economics 101, do not shoot the cash cow. On a side note, do you know what they say about people like you? If you send a fool to college, you end up with an educated fool.

      dane.herbst.5 - 2012-07-13 06:55

      gareth i wouldnt be too sure about the US aint gonna collapse anytime soon comment, considering the amount of debt they are in and their continued habbit of borrowing money plus the dollar is getting weak....and on top of that no one likes them hahaha, guess only time will tell

      Thobile Lugwadu - 2012-07-13 07:12

      USA is a threat to world peace.,almost all the conflicts around the globe, USA is involved in one way or the other. It will continue to destabilize world order for many decades to come.. For me the solution is to trim down dependance on it and form new trade pacts.

      jaba.kov - 2012-07-13 07:47

      Thobile - while I agree that the US is in decline, it is still a superpower and will continue to be so in our lifetime. However, if you research into the common denominator of most world conflicts, you will not find the United States but rather you will find Islam. Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cote d’Ivoire, Cyprus, East Timor, Indonesia, Gaza, Kashmir, Kosovo, Kurdistan, Macedonia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Chechnya, Serbia, West Bank, Thailand, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen, etc. All of these recent or ongoing conflicts have involved the "Religion of Peace", Islam. This is because Islam mean submission not peace. I have repeated this to many Muslim commentators on news24 – asking them what the word Islam really means – I have never received a proper answer. Commentators get angry when you dispute the religion of ‘peace’ catch phrase – but they never dispute the ‘submission’ part. As long as the religion of ‘peace’ is spreading using the sword there will never be world peace, whether the US, China or Russia is our superpower.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-13 07:57

      Fidel, doing again, what you are so good at; SPEWING HATRED !!!!

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-07-13 08:16

      US still supplies China with Aid .... billions.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 08:52

      Still, can't be having any sort of knowledgeable discourse or rational debate here. @Gareth You're commenting doesn't even address my comment in any tangible way. So, it was an excuse to vent your spleen. @Jaba Ignorance of the history one does not know is one thing, and forgivable. Denying history when indeed one knows full well the sequence of events is another. @Ninja United States Agency for International Development has given +- $125 million in aid to China over the past decade (2001-2011). What does it gain you in an honest debate to blur the facts in this way? @Anthony "It is not best that we should all think alike, it is difference of opinion that makes horses race." Mark Twain. Why is it so uncomfortable for you lot to have an honest discussion about US foreign policy, which this article is about. Oh wait you're just making ad hominem attacks because you have no arguement and want to try and stifle debate on this issue by being rude and ignorant. My mother warned me not to debate with donkeys!

      Gareth.S.Hall - 2012-07-16 09:42

      Like I said, you're a hypocrite. Your response to the comments claim Ad hominem attack, yet you yourself resort to childish statements such as "capable of holding two fingers towards America" yet you call them arrogant and comtemptuous? You sure are adding to the debate with that. Also, I have yet to find a country that doesn't serve it's own interests, think about your complaint there for a minute, very stupid thing to say about a country. I'd really like to see a list of these countries that serve the interests of others at the expense of it's own? It must be tough walking around with that log hanging out of your eye, while decrying those who have a spec in theirs. Let's not even talk about that chip on your shoulder.

  • dane.herbst.5 - 2012-07-13 06:50

    the calm before the storm

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