Terrorism and arms control added to agenda of US talks

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 July, 2009, 12:00am

Beijing has added terrorism to the agenda of high-level bilateral meetings with the United States that begin today in Washington, and the US side has added a discussion on arms control, according to a diplomat.

'Diplomats preparing for the talks from both sides have recently agreed to add the two topics,' the diplomat said.

The talks - known as the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue - will be the first top-level discussions between the two nations since Barack Obama became US president. They would deal with a broad range of issues that could set a framework for relations for years to come, analysts said. The two days of meetings would focus on economic and foreign policy issues, as well as climate change, Jin Canrong, deputy dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University, said.

The dialogue 'will discuss steps to further promote bilateral relations in terms of mutual long-term strategic and economic interests, as well as the challenges and opportunities facing the region and the world,' Jing Ulrich, managing director and chairwoman of JPMorgan's China Equities, said.

Ms Ulrich said the fact that the upcoming dialogue had been upgraded from its predecessor under George W. Bush - the Strategic Economic Dialogue - suggested a deepening co-operation between the two nations.

Mr Obama will make a speech and top officials from both sides - including Vice-Premier Wang Qishan and State Councillor Dai Bingguo, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner - will preside over the talks.

Diplomats said that following the violence in Xinjiang this month, the mainland wanted US help in its fight against overseas Uygur separatist groups. Beijing sees Uygur groups such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement as terrorist organisations with links to al-Qaeda.

Professor Jin said Washington's raising of arms-control issues in the dialogue suggested the US was concerned about the mainland's massive military budget and modernisation of its armed forces.

He said top of Beijing's agenda would be its investment in the US, while Washington would again raise long-standing trade deficit and currency issues.

In March, Premier Wen Jiabao expressed concern about the safety of Beijing's more than US$1 trillion investment in US government debt, the world's largest such holding. Ms Ulrich said Beijing would urge the Obama administration to provide assurances that the investment would keep its value in the face of the global financial crisis.

Congress was also pressing the administration to seek a solution on China's massive trade surplus, which swelled to a high of US$266.3 billion last year and is still growing.

Professor Jin said the dialogue would be helpful in promoting mutual understanding, but he expected progress in only a few areas, such as clean energy co-operation and the North Korea issue.

He said that as the two largest energy consumers, both had much to gain from the development of renewable energy.

'Despite frictions in many areas, the two countries have much in common on the issue of energy because both are major energy consumers and are determined to look for new energy sources,' he said.