US de­nies ‘Cold War’ with China

US, China meet to ex­plore path for­ward from ten­sions

Kuwait Times - - International -

WASH­ING­TON: The United States yes­ter­day in­sisted it was not pur­su­ing a new “Cold War” with China, but the Pa­cific pow­ers could only pa­per over deep dif­fer­ences dur­ing high-level talks. The de­fense chiefs and top for­eign af­fairs of­fi­cials of the two coun­tries met in Wash­ing­ton for a reg­u­lar di­a­logue that had been pushed back amid months of spi­ral­ing ten­sions be­tween the world’s two largest economies. Af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s barbed com­ments against China in the runup to this week’s con­gres­sional elec­tions, Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo turned con­cil­ia­tory in tone if not al­ways in sub­stance.

“The United States is not pur­su­ing a Cold War or con­tain­ment pol­icy with China,” Pom­peo told a joint news con­fer­ence. “Rather, we want to en­sure that China act re­spon­si­bly and fairly in sup­port of se­cu­rity and pros­per­ity in each of our two coun­tries,” Pom­peo said. But Pom­peo also was up­front about US con­cerns. While the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has gen­er­ally been soft-spo­ken on hu­man rights, at least with al­lies, Pom­peo de­nounced China’s “re­pres­sion” of re­li­gious and mi­nor­ity groups in­clud­ing the Uighur com­mu­nity, cit­ing a UN re­port that up to one mil­lion mem­bers of the mostly Mus­lim eth­nic group have been rounded up in de­ten­tion camps.

And on Tai­wan, while as­sur­ing his guests that the United States only rec­og­nizes Bei­jing, Pom­peo was in­creas­ingly forth­right in ad­vo­cat­ing for the self-rul­ing democ­racy, crit­i­ciz­ing Bei­jing’s ef­forts to iso­late the is­land it con­sid­ers a rene­gade prov­ince. The United States also took Bei­jing’s mil­i­tary to task over its as­sertive pos­ture in the dis­pute-rife South China Sea, which has wit­nessed a se­ries of in­ci­dents in­clud­ing the buzzing of a US Navy sur­veil­lance air­craft last year by a Chi­nese war­plane.

Talk­ing, but not agree­ing

De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis said the talks were “can­did” but that the two mil­i­taries looked to im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tion and avoid “mis­cal­cu­la­tion” at sea. “And we made clear that the United States will con­tinue to fly, sail and op­er­ate wher­ever in­ter­na­tional law al­lows,” Mat­tis said. Se­nior Com­mu­nist Party of­fi­cial Yang Jiechi, a vet­eran ar­chi­tect of Bei­jing’s for­eign pol­icy, in­sisted that China al­lows free­dom of re­li­gion and crit­i­cized the United States for what he saw as its own “mil­i­ta­riza­tion” of the South China Sea.

“There is no such prob­lem of free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and over­flights be­ing ob­structed, so to use this is­sue as an ex­cuse to mil­i­tary ac­tion is un­jus­ti­fi­able,” he said. “The Chi­nese side made it clear to the United States that it should stop send­ing its ves­sels and mil­i­tary air­craft close to Chi­nese is­lands and reefs and stop ac­tions that un­der­mine China’s sovereignty and se­cu­rity in­ter­ests,” he said. The talks come sev­eral weeks be­fore Trump is set to meet Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping on the side­lines of a Group of 20 sum­mit in Ar­gentina-a po­ten­tial oc­ca­sion for big an­nounce­ments on re­solv­ing dis­putes.

While the Wash­ing­ton talks fo­cused on se­cu­rity, trade is at the heart of ten­sions be­tween the world’s two big­gest economies. Trump has slapped $250 bil­lion worth of tar­iffs on Chi­nese goods, ac­cus­ing Bei­jing of ne­far­i­ous trad­ing prac­tices. Re­tal­ia­tory mea­sures quickly fol­lowed. Yang voiced hope for a quick res­o­lu­tion. “A trade war, in­stead of lead­ing to any so­lu­tion, will only end up hurt­ing both sides and the global econ­omy,” he said. “The door to ne­go­ti­a­tion re­mains open. And let’s not for­get how our two sides have suc­cess­fully nav­i­gated through pre­vi­ous rough patches in our eco­nomic and trade re­la­tions,” he said.

Hard line on trade

But just as he was speak­ing, a top ad­vi­sor to Trump, Pe­ter Navarro, vowed to press China hard on trade. Navarro, the head of the White House Na­tional Trade Coun­cil who is known for his un­ortho­dox eco­nomic views, said China had made empty promises to pre­vi­ous pres­i­dents and that Trump would not back down.

“The game that China has played-and they played peo­ple in the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion like a vi­o­lin-is to do the tap­dance of eco­nomic di­a­logue,” Navarro said at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies. “That’s all they want to do. They want to get us to the bar­gain­ing ta­ble, sound rea­son­able, and talk their way while they keep hav­ing their way with us,” he said. Wash­ing­ton has been es­pe­cially in­censed at what it be­lieves is wide­spread theft of tech­nol­ogy from US com­pa­nies-a charge that China de­nies. “How do you have a deal with some­body if they don’t even ac­knowl­edge your con­cern? I mean, it’s Al­ice in Won­der­land,” Navarro said.

Pom­peo has pre­vi­ously dubbed China as the pri­mary ad­ver­sary of the United States, but dur­ing the talks called Bei­jing “es­sen­tial” in key ar­eas-in­clud­ing North Korea. Trump has made reach­ing a de­nu­cle­ariza­tion agree­ment with North Korea a top pri­or­ity since his land­mark sum­mit in June with the to­tal­i­tar­ian state’s leader Kim Jong Un. Yang said that China, North Korea’s main life­line, would en­force UN sanc­tions but voiced hope that Wash­ing­ton and Py­ongyang “will meet each other halfway” and “ac­com­mo­date each other’s le­git­i­mate con­cerns.”—AFP

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