US and China praise cooperation despite tension | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 05.09.2012
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US and China praise cooperation despite tension

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi expressed their mutual goodwill after talks in Beijing, which came after days of tension over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The Chinese media were especially harsh ahead of Hillary Clinton's two-day visit to Beijing. They were particularly critical of the US' interference in its disputes with various states over conflicting claims to parts of the South China Sea.

An article for Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, said the US "should stop its role as a sneaky troublemaker sitting behind some nations in the region and pulling strings."

The Global Times, a popular tabloid that is under the auspices of the People's Daily, the newspaper of the Communist Party of China, published the findings of a poll asking 40,000 readers whether they thought the US had a right to get involved in China's territorial conflicts. Some 90 percent did not.

Chinese men read the newspaper

The Chinese media has been unusually criticial of the US recently

Only slightly less aggressive in tone, the People's Daily asked why the US was sending out confusing signals, alluding to Clinton's recent speech at the Pacific Islands Forum in the Cook Islands where she declared that "the Pacific is big enough for all of us" and dismissed the notion that expanded US activity was "a hedge against particular countries."

At the end of last year, President Barack Obama announced enhanced defense cooperation with Canberra as part of a new strategic focus on Asia, and in July Pentagon chief Leon Panetta announced in Singapore that the US would shift the bulk of its naval fleet to the Pacific by 2020.

Unnecessary provocation

Beijing sees such developments as unnecessarily provocative. This view was only reinforced recently when the US spoke out in favor of Japan in Tokyo and Beijing's ongoing spat over the group of islands known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China escalated.

Uotsuri Island

This island is one of a group that Japan and China both lay claim to

The People's Daily said the US was being hypocritical. "The United States' recent conduct concerning the Diaoyu islands and South China Sea issues cannot but create the suspicion that it is attempting to sow discord in order to fish for advantage," said a front-page commentary.

"The United States has promised a 'neutral' stand in the disputes between Beijing and Tokyo over China's Diaoyu Islands, yet it constantly proclaims that the isles are covered by a security treaty Washington signed with Tokyo in 1951," it continued.

Conciliatory tone

However, on Wednesday Hillary Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi took a conciliatory tone.

After talks in the cavernous Great Hall of the People, Yang said that China had "plentiful historical and jurisprudential evidence" for its claims to virtually all of the South China Sea but he also agreed on the need to "work towards an eventual adoption of a code of conduct," as Clinton had called for in July.

Clinton and Yang

Clinton and Yang agreed to disagree

Clinton for her part said it was "in everyone's interest" for China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to seek a code, which would establish rules and means of dialogue to prevent incidents from escalating into full-blown conflicts.

The secretary of state also denied charges that the growing US military and political focus on Asia was aimed at containing China. She said that the Obama administration did not want "unhealthy competition."

"I'm very proud of the strength and resilience that we have built into our relationship," she said.

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