Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hillary Clinton in Asia: Are US Goals on China Realistic?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hillary Clinton in Asia: Are US Goals on China Realistic?

Article excerpt

Hillary Clintons 11-day Asia-Pacific tour will take in six countries by the time she arrives in Vladivostok, Russia, on Saturday, but the trip is all about China.

In her meetings in Beijing Tuesday and Wednesday with senior Chinese officials, including President Hu Jintao, the US secretary of state is addressing issues ranging from competing territorial claims in the South China Sea to Syria, Iran, and North Korea.

But the over-arching theme of the Beijing visit, as for much of the rest of the trip, is the Obama administrations long-term objective of seeing a rising China emerge as a responsible and contributing leader in international affairs, and as a force for stability and prosperity rather than for conflict in the resource- and trade-rich Southeast Asia region.

The problem Secretary Clinton confronts in Beijing, and that the US faces more broadly, is that China does not see that its interests and the goals of the United States line up, some Asia experts say.

The heart of the effort of this administration, and to be fair, of previous administrations, has been to tell the Chinese what their interests are and then to think that perhaps we could bring the Chinese around to seeing the world as we do, says Dean Cheng, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundations Asian Studies Center in Washington.

The flip side, he adds, is that the Chinese have a pretty good idea of what their interests are, and those interests very often do not align with those of the United States.

Those differing interests are likely to surface over two key topics of Clintons visit: the mounting tensions over territorial disputes in the Asia-Pacific region, and particularly in the South China Sea, and Syria.

Clinton arrives in China from Indonesia, where she once again emphasized the US position: that while the US has no territorial claims in the region, it does have considerable economic and national-security interests in seeing one of the worlds most prosperous regions stable and open to international trade.

The US has a national interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, freedom of navigation, [and] unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea, she said at a press conference Monday. The US does not take a position on competing territorial claims, she added, but we believe the nations of the region should work collaboratively to resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation, and certainly without the use of force.

That position was met with a certain amount of skepticism in Beijing, where before Clinton arrived Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that the US has many times said it does not take a position on the regions territorial disputes. I hope they will keep their promise, he added, and do more to help stability and not the opposite.

Mr. …

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