The US yesterday urged China to be a “responsible player” as it emerges as a global force and stressed Washington’s commitment to Asia during a regional diplomatic push.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s appeal to China came after talks with Australian officials alongside US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, that focused on bolstering military ties between the allies amid worries over Beijing’s growing clout in the Pacific.
Clinton, who is nearing the end of a two-week Asian tour, said the US had a “very robust dialogue with China,” calling for the emerging giant to use its newfound power responsibly.
“As China becomes more of a player in regional and global affairs, then we expect that China will be a responsible player and will participate in the international framework of rules that govern the way nations behave and conduct themselves,” Clinton told a press conference.
The visit by Clinton and Gates coincides with a trip by US President Barack Obama to India, the start of a four-nation tour as the US looks to extend its presence in an increasingly strategic region.
“The United States has a long presence in the Asia-Pacific [region]. We’ve been there for 100 years,” Clinton said. “We’ve been here, we are here and we will be here. The United States is both a Pacific and Atlantic power and if there were any question or doubt about our intentions, I hope that the last 20 months of the Obama administration has put those finally to rest.”
Both sides expressed concern over a recent territorial dispute that sparked an angry diplomatic row between historic rivals China and Japan, calling for a code of conduct for the South China Sea.
Gates and the US military’s top officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, also said that the US Navy would not shy away from deploying ships to the Yellow Sea or other areas it considers international waters, dismissing China’s objections.
Despite diplomatic strains with China, Gates said he was encouraged by the recent resumption of military ties between Washington and Beijing.
“We’re seeing what I hope are some promising signs from China in terms of our military to military relationship,” Gates said at a briefing yesterday.
Australian and US officials also signed an agreement paving the way for closer cooperation on the surveillance of space, citing “deep concern” over congested satellite orbits.
China in 2007 launched a ballistic missile to knock out one of its old weather satellites, prompting international alarm that Beijing was trying to extend its military power to space, while risking a disastrous accident with falling space debris.
“Australia and the United States shared a deep concern about the increasingly interdependent, congested and contested nature of outer space, and acknowledged that preventing behaviors that could result in mishaps, misperceptions or mistrust was a high priority,” a joint statement said.
Clinton and Gates had earlier, in a newspaper commentary, vowed to beef up the US’ military presence in the region, reflecting worries over China’s rise.
The talks in Melbourne coincide with China’s increasingly assertive stance in the Pacific, with Japan and other Asian neighbors locked in territorial disputes with Beijing.