BEIJING— China’s leaders are conducting a flurry of diplomacy this week at two key regional meetings in Southeast Asia. Officials are trying to keep the focus on shared economic interests instead of territorial disputes.
As China’s President Xi Jinping met with Asian leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Bali, Indonesia Monday, authorities in Beijing were trying to ease territorial disputes over the South China Sea by focusing on the regional economy.
During a news conference, Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said China hopes the South China Sea disputes will not be the focus of the East Asia summit. He said he hopes relations will be smooth between China and other countries.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all claim parts of the South China Sea. The waterway is a major transport route and is rich in potential oil and gas reserves. China claims nearly the entire sea.
In Beijing, Chinese ministers said the regional economy should be top of their agenda.
A World Bank report released Monday says developing economies in East Asia and the Pacific are expanding at a slower pace as China’s economy also slows. Chinese authorities say they remain committed to boosting regional economic growth.
Vice Minister of Commerce Gao Yan said one of the most significant outcomes of China ASEAN cooperation has been the creation of business development zones with 14,000 new job opportunities in Asia.
Authorities also discussed the continuing partial shutdown of the U.S. government that led President Barack Obama to cancel his trip to the region this week.
The United States had planned to use the APEC meetings as an opportunity to move forward on negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade bloc that includes several Asian countries, but not China.
Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said Obama’s presence would be missed at this week’s meetings. Authorities also urged Washington to resolve the debt crisis.
Finance Minister Zhu emphasized the economic ties between China and the United States.
He said such an inseparable bond means that either side will have an enormous impact on the other. He said China is following closely the financial situation in the U.S.
China is the U.S. government’s largest creditor.