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Obama Opens High-Level US-China Talks



U.S. President Barack Obama is calling for a new era of cooperation between the United States and China. Mr. Obama says despite their differences, there are key areas where the two countries can and must work together.

President Obama says Washington and Beijing must cooperate to tackle the big problems facing the world.

"The relationship between the United States and China will shape the 21st century, which makes it as important as any bilateral relationship in the world," the president said. "That really must underpin our partnership. That is the responsibility that together we bear."

The president spoke to high-level American and Chinese officials as they launched a two-day meeting in Washington. The U.S. China Strategic and Economic Dialogue is to discuss a broad agenda from currency concerns to foreign policy.

The president said the officials must work together to tackle worldwide challenges, including the global economic recession, climate change, and the spread of nuclear weapons.

He made specific mention of Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs.

"Neither America nor China has an interest in a terrorist acquiring a bomb, or a nuclear arms race breaking out in East Asia," Mr. Obama said. "That is why we must continue our collaboration to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and make it clear to North Korea that the path to security and respect can be traveled if they meet their obligations."

President Obama also talked about the need to confront threats that transcend borders. He talked about intelligence sharing to dismantle terror networks, and the establishment of early warning systems to check the spread of dangerous diseases.

"All of these issues are rooted in the fact that no one nation can meet the challenges of the 21st century on its own, nor effectively advance its interests in isolation. It is this fundamental truth that compels us to cooperate," President Obama said.

The president said he is under no illusion the United States and China will agree on every issue, or always see the world in the same way. And he made clear that he will continue to speak out about human rights.

"Just as we respect China's ancient and remarkable culture, its remarkable achievements, we also strongly believe that the religion and culture of all peoples must be respected and protected, and that all people should be free to speak their minds," he said. "That includes ethnic and religious minorities in China, as surely as it includes minorities within the United States."

President Obama stressed that it is these differences that make dialogue even more important. He said these discussions give the two sides a chance to get to know each other better and communicate concerns with candor.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is officially hosting the talks along with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Geithner and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan told the gathering there are hopeful signs that the world economy is on the mend.

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