US National Security Adviser Susan Rice was expected to land in Beijing yesterday, signaling that ties with China remain a priority despite turmoil and tensions tearing at US foreign policy.
Rice was expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and other senior Chinese officials in talks which come two weeks after Washington accused a Chinese fighter jet of buzzing one of its spy planes.
The talks are likely to focus on key areas of contention between Washington and Beijing — including China’s maritime territorial disputes with Taiwan and US allies in the region, as well as a long-running computer hacking dispute between the two powers.
Rice is also to help set the table for a one-on-one summit between Obama and Xi, planned to coincide with the US leader’s visit to the APEC summit in Beijing in November.
The Obama-Xi summit could take place in an informal setting, following up on the meeting the two leaders held in California last year.
Obama and Xi could also come face-to-face at the UN General Assembly in New York later this month, though no meeting has been announced.
Rice’s visit is intended as a signal that despite being pulled into a new conflict in the Middle East against the Islamic State and being consumed by a showdown with Russia over Ukraine, Washington remains committed to its policy of reorienting US power to Asia.
“The administration remains committed to our rebalance to Asia and that includes close and continuing consultation with top Chinese leadership directly from the White House,” US National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.
“The reality is that there are few global problems of the 21st century that will be solved without the US and China at the table, and as such, we believe it is important to maintain direct and close contact with Chinese leadership on a range of pressing issues,” he added.
Rice visits Beijing while other top US foreign policy officials, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the top White House counterterrorism advisor, Lisa Monaco, are fanning out across the Middle East to build a coalition to take on the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The fact that Rice is to be in China at the same time is intended to demonstrate the importance that Obama attaches to ties with Beijing, a White House official said.
“In spite of all the rest that is going on, this remains a very high priority,” the official said.
Rice is officially the guest of Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪), but as well as seeing Xi, is also expected to meet Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) and other key officials.
She will be in Beijing after China told the US to end air and naval surveillance near its borders, which it said was damaging relations between the Pacific powers and could lead to “undesirable accidents.”
The latest irritant came when Washington said an armed Chinese fighter jet flew dangerously close last month to a US military aircraft, off Hainan Island over the South China Sea.
Rice may also take the opportunity to restate Washington’s support for democracy in Hong Kong, after Beijing bristled at its backing for protesters who are demanding universal suffrage in the territory.
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