Biden Visits China Amid Anxiety Over Taiwan Arms Sale
Economics Also Tops Vice President's Agenda
US Vice President Joe Biden (file photo)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrives in China Wednesday amid rising anxiety on both sides of the Taiwan Strait over the prospect of new U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
U.S. officials have stressed that Biden wants to use the four-day visit to deliver assurances about the U.S. financial system and to build ties to the next generation of Chinese leaders.
But both Chinese and Taiwan press reports note his arrival falls on the anniversary of a landmark 1982 communique in which the United States promised, among other things, to gradually scale back its arms sales to Taiwan.
China's Global Times, a Communist Party-affiliated newspaper, said Thursday that Beijing officials are likely to pressure Biden over a pending decision whether to sell advanced F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan. America's last major arms sale to Taiwan led to a year-long freeze in military links with China.
U.S. officials say Biden has no plans to bring up the Taiwan issue while in China. And Taipei's official news agency Thursday quoted Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou as saying the Americans have promised that Biden will not consult with China on the issue.
However, press reports have suggested the United States will turn down the Taiwan request and offer to upgrade its existing fleet of F-16s instead. U.S. law obliges Washington to provide Taiwan with adequate arms for defense.
Biden is visiting Beijing at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, who is in line to succeed President Hu Jintao in 2013. They will also travel together to the southwestern city of Chengdu, where Biden will deliver a major policy speech.
Their meeting is the first in a series of visits announced during Mr. Hu's visit to Washington in January.
Biden is expected to meet Mr. Hu and other top Chinese officials, with economic issues at the top of the agenda.
China is the world's second largest economy and the biggest foreign creditor of the United States. Chinese officials have expressed concern about the recent deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling, saying it did not do enough to trim the U.S. deficit.
The Obama administration says China has its own economic problems, which include an aging work force and the need to move away from an export-driven economy. The United States also wants China to let its currency rise against the dollar.
Mr. Biden is also under pressure from human rights groups to press Chinese leaders on their recent crackdown on dissenters.
From China, Biden will travel to Mongolia to show support for that country's democratic system and highlight growing economic ties.
He will also stop in Tokyo for meetings with Japanese leaders, followed by a visit to the earthquake-devastated city of Sendai.