China talks ‘useful’, says Clinton, though divides remain

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 September, 2012, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 September, 2012, 4:13pm

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday her visit to China a day earlier was useful, although she left with little to show for it on divisive issues from Syria’s civil war to territorial disputes over the South China Sea.

“Even when we disagree – believe me we can talk very frankly now – we can explore the toughest issues without imperiling the whole relationship,” Clinton said in Dili a day after meeting President Hu Jintao and other Chinese officials in Beijing.

Clinton was criticised in official Chinese media during that visit, and she exchanged blunt words with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi over how to end the bloodshed in Syria.

Beijing is resisting a push by the US and other countries for UN sanctions against Syria to put pressure on President Bashar Assad’s regime, saying the crisis must be resolved through negotiations. Beijing also wants to negotiate several territorial disputes over the resource-rich South China Sea individually with its neighbours, rejecting multilateral negotiations that the US advocates.

Clinton said that “the mark of a mature relationship, whether it is between nations or between people, is not whether we agree on everything – because that is highly unlikely between nations and people – but whether we can work through the issues that are difficult.”

She said it was important for the US and China to talk ahead of a number of international gatherings, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit this weekend in Vladivostok, Russia, the UN General Assembly and the East Asia Summit.

“As was evident yesterday, there is a huge amount going on where the United States and China need to consult,” Clinton said, citing Iran and North Korea as well as Syria and the South China Sea.

She said that the US, “and certainly I, am not going to shy away from standing up for our strategic interests and in expressing clearly where we differ.”

After East Timor, Clinton will visit Brunei, then head to Russia for the Apec forum.