A senior State Department official says there is no sign of a fundamental change in U.S.-Chinese relations despite a rash of recent disagreements. China warned Tuesday a planned meeting between President Obama and the Dalai Lama would undermine cooperation between the two powers.
Administration officials acknowledge there has been an unusual convergence of public disputes with China in recent days including alleged Chinese Internet censorship and a furious Chinese response this week to an announcement of a major U.S. arms sale to Taiwan.
But a senior official who spoke to reporters here says while China may be becoming more assertive on such issues they are not new, and that there is no indication that, as he put it, we are approaching some fundamental change in our relationship.
China responded angrily to a long-anticipated announcement last Friday that the United States will sell Taiwan more than $6 billion in defensive military hardware, halting bilateral military contacts.
A senior Chinese official said Tuesday that if, as expected, President Obama meets with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, it would damage trust and cooperation between the two countries.
China has responded similarly to past Taiwan arms packages and Presidential meetings with the Dalai Lama.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said there are traditional irritants over which the two countries just agree to disagree but that the broader relationship is sound.
"Do we have issues that crop up from time to time? Absolutely. You have two of the most powerful nations on earth and our interest coincide in many areas and our interests collide occasionally in a handful of those. And we work through them, and we will continue to work through them through the kind of ongoing dialogue that has characterized our interaction with China since the Obama administration came to office," he said.
The White House said Tuesday President Obama intends to go ahead with a meeting with the Dalai Lama expected as early as this month, and that Mr. Obama told Chinese leaders of his intentions during a visit to Beijing last November.
In an interview with VOA in Paris last Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Mr. Obama's plans are no departure from past U.S. policy. "The last three, maybe four, U.S. presidents have met with the Dalai Lama, so again there shouldn't be any surprise. We certainly don't recognize any claim that the Dalai Lama makes to territory inside China. We view him as primarily as a religious leader. So again, this is something that previous presidents have done and President Obama is committed to doing," he said.
Clinton said U.S. sales of defensive weaponry to Taiwan, authorized by an act of Congress at the time relations with Beijing were normalized in 1979, are appropriate and have enabled Taiwan to feel more comfortable in dealings with China.
Clinton met in London last Thursday with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and they discussed, among other things, charges that Beijing interfered with Chinese operations of the U.S.-based Internet search engine company Google.