Diplomatic crises highlight significance of relations with Beijing: Strobe Talbott The mainland will play an increasingly critical role in US President George W. Bush's foreign policy as diplomatic crises in Iraq, North Korea and Iran continue to cloud Washington's ties, according to a former senior US official. Strobe Talbott, former US deputy secretary of state under the Clinton administration and currently president of the influential Brookings Institute think-tank, said various problems hampering Washington's foreign policies had underscored the significance of co-operation with the mainland. It was unlikely Mr Bush would resort to unilateral military solutions in dealing with three 'crises', namely Iraq, North Korea and Iran countries, Dr Talbott said. 'In all three issues, China has important and constructive roles to play,' he said during a speech yesterday in Hong Kong. Dr Talbott said he believed Mr Bush would opt for 'continuity' in US policy towards Taiwan, the most sensitive and important issue in Sino-US relations. Praising Mr Bush for his handling of the Taiwan issue over the past four years, he said the US president had sent clear messages cautioning President Chen Shui-bian against unilateral moves towards independence. Dr Talbott said the September 2001 terrorist attacks against the US had transformed bilateral ties, including Mr Bush's initial scepticism towards China's role as a strategic partner. Since the attacks, the two countries had been able to put aside many differences in their troubled ties and start co-operating in the fight against terrorism, he said. However, the attacks had also strengthened the views of those who characterised the mainland as a threat, he added. Dr Talbott said closer Sino-US relations would not only help the Bush administration in its 'war on terror', but also encourage key members of the US government to consider Beijing a strategic partner. The Foreign Ministry's commissioner in Hong Kong, Yang Wenchang , also expressed confidence over the future of bilateral relations. He said a meeting between Mr Bush and President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of last week's Apec forum had been very successful, with the two leaders committing to push forward constructive and strategic relations. Saying the two sides had been maintaining closer contact, Mr Yang said Mr Hu had asked Mr Bush to join Beijing in its fight against Taiwanese independence forces. Foreign Vice-Minister Dai Bingguo would visit the US 'in the near future' to discuss issues stemming from the recent Apec summit, the Foreign Ministry said. Xinhua said Mr Dai would firm up a consensus reached between the two presidents during the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Chile.