Xi, Obama to tackle is­sues to bol­ster ties

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHEN WEI­HUA in Wash­ing­ton chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama will meet Thurs­day af­ter­noon on the side­lines of the fourth Nu­clear Se­cu­rity Sum­mit (NSS) in a bid to ex­pand co­op­er­a­tion and man­age dif­fer­ences be­tween the two su­per pow­ers.

Xi ar­rived at the Joint Base An­drews in Mary­land on Wed­nes­day evening from Prague, Czech Re­pub­lic, where he paid a three­day state visit. Prague was also where Obama made his speech about a nu­clear- free world on April 5, 2009, which led to the birth of the first NSS in Wash­ing­ton in 2010.

Both Chi­nese and Amer­i­can of­fi­cials and ex­perts hope the meet­ing, the eighth be­tween the two pres­i­dents since 2013, will help keep bi­lat­eral re­la­tions on a healthy track.

Cheng Li, di­rec­tor of the John L. Thorn­ton China Cen­ter of the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, praised Xi’s visit de­spite grow­ing ten­sion in the South China Sea. Many Chines be­lieve that dis­putes over mar­itime ter­ri­to­ries be­tween China and some of its neigh­bors have be­come more com­pli­cated in re­cent years be­cause of US in­volve­ment.

Li said a high-level meet­ing is im­por­tant in build­ing trust. “I al­ways be­lieve that the prob­lem be­tween China and the US is not ide­ol­ogy or in­ter­est, but mis­cal­cu­la­tion,” he said.

He hoped that Xi and Obama will reach some agree­ment on the South China Sea is­sue.

Jef­frey Bader, a se­nior fel­low at Brook­ings in Wash­ing­ton and a prin­ci­pal ad­viser for Obama on Asia from 2009 to 2011, de­scribed Obama’s only bi­lat­eral meet­ing dur­ing the sum­mit that will be at­tended by 50 plus heads of state and gov­ern­ment as “a sign of re­spect’’ for Xi and an in­di­ca­tion of how im­por­tant Obama con­sid­ers the US re­la­tion­ship with China.

He be­lieves the meet­ing is likely to fo­cus a good deal on the South China Sea, say­ing there is con­cern in Wash­ing­ton and the re­gion about how China might re­act, be­yond for­mal re­jec­tion, to a de­ci­sion by the In­ter­na­tional Tri­bunal in April or May re­gard­ing the Philip­pine com­plaint on the UN Law of the Sea (UN­C­LOS).

China has long stated that it will not par­tic­i­pate or ac­cept such manda­tory ar­bi­tra­tion. For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi said in Wash­ing­ton last month that when China signed the UN­C­LOS 10 years ago, it made it clear that it would not ac­cept manda­tory ar­bi­tra­tion spec­i­fied un­der the Ar­ti­cle 298, a dec­la­ra­tion that was made by some 30 sig­na­tory na­tions in­clud­ing the UK, France and Rus­sia. The US Congress is still un­will­ing to rat­ify the UN­C­LOS.

It is ex­pected that the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula will also be a key topic. China has sup­ported the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 2270 that im­poses sanc­tions on Py­ongyang. China has also called all sides to re­frain from tak­ing ac­tions that fur­ther raise ten­sion there. The US and South Korea are hold­ing their largest joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises ever, with 17,000 Amer­i­can and 300,000 South Korea troops.

China has urged a re­sump­tion of di­a­logue and pro­posed a par­al­lel ap­proach for the DPRK to aban­don its nu­clear weapon pro­gram while the US and South Korea agree to sign a peace treaty with DPRK to re­place the 1953 ar­mistice treaty.

“It would be good for both sides if they can use this year to sta­bi­lize the re­la­tion­ship be­fore it is turned over to Obama’s suc­ces­sor next Jan­uary,” Bader wrote on the Brook­ings web­site. Xi and Obama are ex­pected to see each other again at the G-20 Sum­mit at Hangzhou in East China in Septem­ber and the APEC lead­ers’ sum­mit in Lima, Peru, in Novem­ber.

Dou­glas Paal, vice-pres­i­dent for stud­ies and di­rec­tor of the Asia pro­gram at the Carnegie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tional Peace, said that Obama’s meet­ing with Xi be­ing the only bi­lat­eral meet­ing for Obama at the sum­mit ``sug­gests the im­por­tance of US-China lead­er­ship com­mu­ni­ca­tions”.

Paal said a se­cu­rity dilemma is de­vel­op­ing be­tween the two big pow­ers, cit­ing ten­sion in South China Sea and China’s con­cern over the pos­si­ble de­ploy­ment of a THAAD (Ter­mi­nal High Al­ti­tude Area De­fense) anti-mis­sile sys­tem in South Korea.

“This situation cries out for lead­ers to com­mu­ni­cate and man­age the ris­ing ten­sions. Each side sees the other as at fault. Some signs of mu­tual re­straint are re­quired,” he said.

High ex­pec­ta­tions for the XiObama meet­ing have also been ex­pressed by both gov­ern­ments. Chi­nese Vice-For­eign Min­is­ter Li Baodong called the meet­ing of “pro­found sig­nif­i­cance in push­ing for­ward the con­tin­ued and steady devel­op­ment of bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship.” The White House said it will present an op­por­tu­nity to ad­vance US-China co­op­er­a­tion on a range of is­sues of mu­tual in­ter­est, while also en­abling the two lead­ers to ad­dress ar­eas of dis­agree­ment con­struc­tively.

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