* Clinton and Yang upbeat despite tensions
* Island disputes create friction
* China paper suggests Washington trying to "sow discord"
* Both sides disagree on Syria, Iran
By Andrew Quinn
BEIJING, Sept 5 China and the United States were
divided on Wednesday over how to end the bloodshed in Syria and
defuse tension in the South China Sea and other global
troublespots, but stressed hope for steady ties as they navigate
political transitions at home.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese Foreign
Minister Yang Jiechi vowed goodwill after talks which had been
preceded by criticism from Beijing of Clinton's calls for a
multilateral solution to the territorial disputes in the South
and East China Seas.
Clinton told reporters that such disagreements did not have
to hobble cooperation.
"I'm very proud of the strength and resilience that we have
built into our relationship," she said after talks with Yang in
the cavernous Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
"It makes it possible for us to talk about anything, and to
find ways to tackle issues frankly and forthrightly," Clinton
said, adding that the two sides would not see eye-to-eye on all
the issues that are part of their vast relationship.
Yang also cast relations in a positive light, saying both
sides could work together as long as "mutual respect for each
other's core interests and major concerns" continues.
"History and facts have repeatedly proven that China and the
United States have interwoven interests," said Yang.
The remarks underscored efforts by both sides to contain
quarrels, especially as they focus on domestic politics. China's
Communist Party is preoccupied with a once-in-a-decade
leadership over coming months, while U.S. President Barack Obama
is focused on a re-election fight culminating in November.
U.S. officials cancelled an evening press briefing shortly
after Chinese state media said a Chinese official who fled to a
U.S. consulate in China in February had been charged with
defection and taking bribes.
Wang Lijun had been the former police chief in the city of
Chongqing when China's biggest political uproar in decades
felled then Party Secretary of the city, Bo Xilai, after his
wife was connected with the murder of a British citizen.
Clinton praised China for helping to apply pressure on Iran
over its nuclear activities, and Yang sounded a moderating note
on Syria by balancing opposition to outside intervention with
support for a "political transition".
"China is willing to maintain and strengthen dialogue,
communication and coordination with the U.S.," Chinese President
Hu Jintao told Clinton, according to the Chinese Foreign
"Maintaining stable development of Sino-U.S. economic and
trade ties has an important impact on the two countries, as well
as the revival and growth of the world economy."
Neither side gave ground on the South China Sea disputes,
which have emerged as a persistent irritant.
China's claims over much of the South China Sea, including
the Spratly and Paracel islands, have put it at loggerheads with
Vietnam, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations. A
similar dispute has set China against Japan in the East China
China has been especially irked by the U.S.-backed proposals
for a multilateral approach to resolving such disputes,
preferring to negotiate separately with each of the far less
powerful Asian claimants.
A U.S. official told travelling reporters Vice President Xi
Jinping, who is overwhelmingly likely to succeed Hu as
president, had to cancel his meeting with Clinton.
Xi cancelled an earlier meeting with Singapore's prime
minister, a sign his absence was not a snub at Clinton.
"We hope people will not make unnecessary speculation," Yang
said of Xi's absence.
"FISHING FOR ADVANTAGE"
The overseas edition of state mouthpiece the People's Daily
laid out China's concerns ahead of Clinton's meetings,
suggesting the United States was seeking to gain leverage from
China's tensions with Japan and Southeast Asian countries.
"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 in the paper, which
broadly reflects official thinking.
China and Japan have rival claims to the uninhabited Diaoyu
islands -- called Senkaku in Japan -- and surrounding fishing
areas and potentially rich gas deposits.
"Regarding the South China Sea, the position of the Chinese
government has been consistent and clear cut. China has
sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and their
adjacent waters," Yang, the foreign minister, told reporters.
"Nowhere else do China and the United States share more
converging interests and interact more frequently than in the
Asia-Pacific region," he said.
Clinton repeated that the United States took no position on
the contending claims but wanted China and Southeast Asian
states to agree on a code of conduct to avoid flare-ups.
The Obama administration also wants greater Chinese
cooperation on other international problems, including reining
in the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programmes and finding a
solution to the Syria crisis.
China backs a "political transition" in Syria to end
worsening bloodshed after 18 months of unrest, Foreign Minister
Yang said while repeating Beijing's opposition to forceful
foreign intervention in the crisis.
Clinton said it was "no secret" the U.S. government was
disappointed by the positions of China and Russia on Syria, and
she reiterated that the best course of action remained tough
U.N. Security Council action.
Yang also said his government opposed the efforts of any
country, including Iran, to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran
denies having such ambitions.
"We believe the parties should continue to exercise calm and
remain committed to diplomatic negotiations," said Yang.
Washington has been turning up pressure on Tehran by
expanding unilateral sanctions, an approach that Beijing
opposes. But Clinton suggested the Chinese government had given
some concessions on its energy and trade flows with Iran.
She praised efforts with China and other permanent members
of the U.N. Security Council, which she said had brought
"unprecedented pressure" on Tehran.