Despite Ship Incident, China Calls for Cooperative Ties with US (Update 2)

Following tensions over the incident involving the U.S. navy ship The Impeccable, both sides are now cooling their rhetoric. At a regular press briefing, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman called for a cooperative relationship between the two countries. From VOA:

Despite these conflicts, the Chinese spokesman stressed that Sino-American relations are at what he called “a new point,” in which there are new opportunities to develop.

Ma says the two countries shoulder a common responsibility for the peace and development of the world. He urges the two sides to focus on the overall shared interests and follow the principle of seeking common ground while shelving differences.

President Obama has invited visiting Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to the White House to discuss pressing issues in the bilateral relationship, the BBC reports. Meanwhile, it has also been revealed that Treasury Secretary called on G-7 nations to ease criticism of China and made other behind-the-scenes efforts to ease tensions, just after he called the country a “currency manipulator” during his confirmation hearings. From Bloomberg:

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner pushed Group of Seven officials to soften criticism of China last month, according to a person briefed on the matter, after his accusation that the nation was “manipulating” the yuan strained ties with the U.S.’s second-biggest trading partner.

G-7 finance ministers and central bankers on Feb. 14 welcomed “China’s fiscal measures and continued commitment to move to a more flexible exchange rate.” By contrast, the group in April 2008 pressed for “accelerated appreciation” of the yuan. Geithner’s behind-the-scenes effort also included a series of phone calls and meetings with Chinese officials.

Geithner’s work on the G-7 statement came just weeks after he publicly accused China of “manipulating” its currency during his Senate confirmation hearings, drawing criticism from the Chinese. Donald Straszheim, a former Merrill Lynch & Co. chief economist, said the G-7 shift may signal the U.S. Treasury won’t label China a manipulator in a report due April.

Update 1: The New York Times has more on President Obama’s meeting with Foreign Minister Yang, in which Obama called for an upgrading of the bilateral military dialogue, “in order to avoid future incidents”:

The two met in the Oval Office in the highest level contact since a tense encounter Sunday involving a United States Navy survey vessel and five Chinese ships that escalated into what the chief American intelligence officer called the “most serious” military incident with China since 2001.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi spent two hours at the White House, meeting first with the national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, and then with Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. The White House played down the meeting, keeping it closed to reporters and news photographers. But it did release its own handout photo afterward.

Update 2: The U.S. Navy has sent a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Chung-Hoon, to protect the Impeccable. From the Washington Post:

The USS Chung-Hoon, armed with torpedoes and missiles, is stationed in protection of the USNS Impeccable, an ocean surveillance ship. On Sunday, five Chinese vessels surrounded the Impeccable, which is unarmed. The Chinese ships approached to within 25 feet and blocked the Impeccable’s path with pieces of wood, the official said.

“Chung-Hoon is there, in the area, keeping an eye on Impeccable, which continues lawful military operations,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The Hawaii-based destroyer, with a crew of about 275, was in the region for a regularly scheduled deployment and was diverted to the escort mission, the official said. “It’s not like we specially deployed another ship,” he said.

March 12, 2009 10:50 AM
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