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Clinton Seeks Stronger US Relations with China

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States and China are working to strengthen their bilateral relationship by focusing on areas of cooperation, not contention. She spoke Saturday in Beijing, the last stop on her first overseas trip since taking up her new position.

Secretary of State Clinton made it very clear that overall, the new Obama administration seeks to forge good relations with China.

"The [Chinese] foreign minister and I had a wide-ranging discussion that started with a simple premise. It is essential that the United States and China have a positive, cooperative relationship," Clinton said.

She outlined three main areas where the United States is seeking to work in concert with China. This includes combatting the global economic crisis and mitigating climate change. She said Washington and Beijing also discussed a range of security issues that include North Korea, Iran, South Asia, global terrorism and non-proliferation.

She also said China and the U.S. are resuming military ties. Military exchanges were suspended last October when the Bush administration notified Congress of its plans to sell nearly $7 billion worth of arms to Taiwan, a seperately governed island that China regards as a renegade province.

On economic matters, she said she appreciates the Chinese government's "continuing confidence" in United States Treasury bonds.

"We have every reason to believe that the United States and China will recover and that together we will help to lead the world recovery," she said.

China has nearly $2 trillion worth of foreign exchange reserves and is the world's largest holder of U.S. government debt.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi described the discussions as "good," and told reporters the two sides had reached "broad agreement" on many issues.

As to whether the Chinese government will continue to buy U.S. debt, though, Yang was non-committal.

Yang said only that Beijing wants to ensure safety, good value and liquidity when using its foreign exchange reserves. He said China will rely on these principles in determining how to best use its foreign exchange reserves in the future.

Meanwhile, one issue that was mentioned, but not emphasized, was human rights. Both sides acknowledged the issue was raised in wide-ranging discussions.

Secretary Clinton, speaking to journalists in Seoul Friday just before boarding the plane to Beijing, said she is seeking to reach consensus on issues that are less contentious than Taiwan, Tibet and human rights.

"But our pressing on those issues can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis. We have to have a dialogue that leads to an understanding and cooperation on each of those," she said.

In 1995, then-first lady Hillary Clinton attended the United Nations Women's Conference in Beijing, and gave a high-profile speech urging China to improve its human rights record.

One Chinese activist, Ding Zilin, was in detention at the time. Ding says she is very grateful to Clinton for those comments, which she credits with helping to secure her release.

Ding agrees with Chinese and American leaders that the two countries really do need each other.

But she urged Secretary Clinton to again use her influence to intercede in the case of another detained dissident, Liu Xiaobo. He is one of the organizers of Charter 08, which was released in December. The document calls for multi-party democracy and legal reform, and has been signed by thousands of Chinese people.

Secretary Clinton's stop in China is the fourth leg of an Asia trip that also took her to Japan, Indonesia and South Korea. On Sunday, she attends church services and is due to meet with Chinese civil society leaders, before returning to Washington.