The United States has said it is "very disappointed" in China for not handing over intelligence leaker Edward Snowden while he was in Hong Kong. However, both powers did agree to restart investment treaty talks.
During wide-ranging annual talks in Washington on Thursday the United States openly criticized China for not extraditing former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden while he was in Hong Kong.
President Barack Obama, in a statement on a meeting with the Chinese envoys, voiced "disappointment and concern" that Snowden was allowed to leave Hong Kong on June 23 for Russia.
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said the decision on Snowden "undermined" calls for cooperation between Obama and China's new President Xi Jinping.
Burns, who was filling in for Secretary of State John Kerry, said China's handling of the case was "not consistent" with the "type of relationship – the new model – that we both seek to build."
Speaking at a joint press conference, State Councilor Yang Jiechi said that due to Hong Kong's autonomy, the region's decisions were based on its laws and were "beyond reproach."
Snowden, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee who worked as a subcontractor at the NSA, has been on the run since leaking information about US surveillance activities to the news media a couple of weeks ago. Among other things, the documents leaked by Snowden included an insight into a US government program known as PRISM, which gives the NSA access to vast amounts of Internet data.
Treaty talks move forward
Despite the reprimand, Washington and Beijing agreed to restart stalled negotiations on an investment treaty, with Beijing dropping previous efforts to protect certain sectors of its economy.
US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew hailed the investment treaty commitment as a sign of positive change in Beijing as China reforms its economic model toward growth driven by consumption.
"China announced its intention to negotiate a high standard bilateral investment treaty with us that will include all stages of investment and all sectors - a significant breakthrough, and the first time China has agreed to do so with another country," he said as the talks concluded.
The treaty talks, known as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, began in 2008, however neither side have given any timeframe for the conclusion of negotiations.
Lew said the step would "level the playing field" for US businesses interested in entering the billion-plus market.
hc/lw (Reuters, AFP, AP)