Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi held what she said were productive talks Wednesday in preparation for President Obama's first meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao early next month in London. They discussed collective efforts to boost the sagging global economy, and issues of discord including human rights.
The meeting was preceded by editorial criticism and complaints by human rights groups that Clinton was not assertive enough with Chinese officials on human rights issues when she visited China last month.
But in an unusual solo press appearance after her meeting with Foreign Minister Yang, Clinton said they had discussed human rights issues including Tibet, and said that promotion of human rights is an American core belief and an essential aspect of U.S. discourse with every other country.
Under questioning, she said human rights does not take a back seat but is a central part of the U.S.-China dialogue. She said she and her Chinese counterpart discussed the possible resumption of what has been an off-and-on formal dialogue between the two countries on human rights, and that she wants to finds a platform that yields not just talk on the issue but real progress.
"There is no doubt about our commitment," she said. "We're exploring different ways of being effective in delivering on that commitment, and whether it's with China or any other nation, we're going to continue to look for opportunities to not just talk about human rights but actually try to advance the agenda on human rights."
The Chinese foreign minister's Washington schedule is laden with economic meetings. After the meeting with Clinton, Yang went on to see Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to lay groundwork for the G-20 summit of major economies in London early next month that is aimed at a collective effort to reverse the global recession.
President Obama will meet Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of that meeting and Clinton said the United States and China have a joint responsibility to see that the G-20 meeting produces tangible and concrete action to combat the downturn.
Clinton side-stepped a question about whether U.S. indebtedness to China limited the Obama administration's leverage with Beijing, saying both countries have different economic strengths and weaknesses but there is no doubt about their capacity to recover.
"It's not going to be easy and it will take some time, but I'm absolutely confident," she said. "I think the Chinese are equally committed to stimulating growth, to being able to help push the global economic agenda as well. Obviously we will have difficulties in dealing with the economic challenges we face. For China, they're an export driven country. They need consumer to buy those exports. For us, going into deficits to the extent we must in order to put in place our recovery plan is something we are going to have to deal with."
Clinton said she and Yang agreed to work to insure that there will be no repeat of the incident earlier this week in which the U.S. Navy said an American surveillance ship was harassed by Chinese vessels in international waters of the South China sea.
She also said they discussed ways to work together to address the humanitarian crisis posed by Sudan's expulsion of international aid groups from Darfur, and reaffirmed their commitment to the early resumption of the Chinese-sponsored six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program.