The US and China have agreed for the first time ever to hold regular, senior-level talks on a range of political, security and possibly economic issues, the Washington Post said yesterday quoting senior US administration officials.
The meetings, which the US government has chosen to call a "global dialogue," will be headed by Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and will be held periodically, with the timing and frequency yet to be determined.
The place for the first meeting is also undecided with China favoring Beijing and the US, Washington, the officials said.
A Chinese vice foreign minister will head the Chinese delegation at the regular meetings, which have never been held at such a senior level, the officials said.
The talks both signify China's interest in the prestige of such sessions and Washington's efforts to come to terms with China's rising influence in Asia, the senior US officials said.
The US has chosen to call the talks a "global dialogue," the officials told the daily, to differentiate them from the "strategic dialogue" the US holds with its close allies.
US intentions to hold regular sessions with top Chinese officials were confirmed last month by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a visit to Beijing, officials said.
In the upcoming meetings, Zoellick is expected to ask tough questions about China's growing military capabilities, which Rice addressed during her recent trip. She was "very direct in our concerns on their military buildup," the official said.
There has also been pressure to include in the regular talks discussion on economic issues, in part because Zoellick is a former US trade representative, officials said, adding that they were uncertain if China's compartmentalized bureaucracy could handle the request.
Jian Quan, a visiting Chinese diplomat, told the Post the meetings would provide "a platform, a basis for the two countries to have direct, frank and deep dialogue."
He said that "through such effective communication, both sides would be in the position to avoid actions and policies that would lead to misunderstandings."
A senior US official said of the talks that the Chinese "are more interested in optics and the prestige of being a player and power center in the world.
"We are interested in a constructive and cooperative and candid dialogue. China is everywhere now, and we want to raise the bar of expectations on how they pursue their interests," the US official added.
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