US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made a quick visit to China on Saturday to reiterate her view that Beijing must help defuse maritime disputes with its neighbors and especially Japan.
Clinton met Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo (戴秉國) — China’s most senior foreign policymaker — on Hainan Island after wading into rows which are simmering in both the East and South China Seas, at a regional summit in Hanoi.
US officials said Dai and Clinton as well as top aides met for two-and-a-half hours at the airport in the resort town of Sanya. Clinton later traveled to Cambodia — her third country of the day and part of a grueling two-week tour of Asia.
A senior US State Department official told reporters on the flight to Cambodia that Dai sought to be “reassuring” about US-Chinese ties, “given the recent tensions on territorial issues, macro-economic policies and the like.”
Washington and Beijing have also jousted over currency, trade and human rights issues, but US officials say China is intent on making a success of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) planned visit to the US in January.
Earlier on Saturday in Hanoi, Clinton held talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪), who called on Washington to avoid “irresponsible remarks” when discussing a disputed island chain over which Beijing is feuding with Tokyo.
China and Japan have been embroiled in a bruising diplomatic row for two months following a maritime incident off the islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyutais (釣魚台) in Taiwan and China, and administered by Tokyo.
Both sides claim the potentially resource-rich islets as their own, but Clinton has angered Beijing by saying they fall within the scope of the US-Japan security alliance.
“The United States has never taken a position on sovereignty, but we have made it very clear that the islands are part of our mutual treaty obligations and the obligation to defend Japan,” Clinton told a press conference in Hanoi.
“It is in all of our interests for China and Japan to have stable, peaceful relations,” she said.
She said the US proposed three-way talks with China and Japan at the foreign ministers level to “discuss a range of issues,” but it was not clear if either side would take up the invitation.
A senior US State Department official said the US has “made it very clear to both sides that we want the temperature to go down on these [maritime] issues and we expect a constructive dialogue to resume between the two sides.”