Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday recited a series of U.S. grievances with Beijing’s policies, ranging from currency rates to human rights, but said the U.S. is seeking a closer relationship with China, not trying to check its growing power.
In a speech in Hawaii at the start of a two-week tour of the Asian Pacific region, Clinton said the U.S. would remain "forward deployed" in the area and not relinquish its role as a major power there. She called on China to expand its cooperation with the U.S., even as its power and influence expands.
"It is not in anyone’s interest for the United States and China to see each other as adversaries," she said.
Clinton recited a list of issues where the U.S. and China are currently at odds. They include efforts to blunt the nuclear threats posed by Iran and North Korea, improve strained military-to-military ties, combat climate change and resolve U.S. concerns over China’s trade and currency policies.
"We seek a deeper dialogue in an effort to build trust and establish rules of the road as our militaries operate in greater proximity," Clinton said. She called on China to make "responsible" changes in its currency policies, to address a yawning trade imbalance between the two countries.
Clinton did not address reports that China had lifted a moratorium on exports of rare earths minerals critical to the high-tech industry. On Wednesday she had called on China to clarify its policy on the issue, which has raised global concerns.
Clinton also said Thursday that China should work with its neighbors to ease tensions over territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. Beijing has alarmed some of its neighbors with what many see as a more assertive stance.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials recently riled their Chinese counterparts by declaring that the U.S. has a stake in settling these disputes. China regards the South China Sea as its own.
Clinton will meet on Saturday with Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo on China’s Hainan Island — a last-minute addition to the itinerary to press those messages.
Hainan is a powerful symbol of Chinese military might, hosting an array of intelligence and espionage facilities of the People’s Liberation Army.
It was also the place an American spy plane was forced to land in 2001 after it collided with a Chinese fighter jet. The 24 crew members were held for 11 days until the Bush administration apologized.
Clinton said the United States would continue to "project its leadership" in the Asian Pacific region.
From Hawaii, after a stop in Guam, Clinton will travel to Vietnam, Hainan Island, Cambodia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia.
She stressed the importance of strengthening strategic cooperation with five U.S. allies in the region — Australia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines — and cementing friendships with emerging powers like Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Part of her trip will coincide with President Barack Obama’s own visit to Asia — to India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan — that begins next week.
"Deep-seated challenges lurk in Asia," she said, noting ongoing human rights abuses in military-ruled Myanmar and North Korea. She said "military buildups matched with ongoing territorial disputes create anxieties that reverberate."
"Solutions to urgent global problems like climate change will succeed or fail based on what happens in Asia," she said. "This is the future taking shape today, full of fast-paced change, and marked by challenges. And it is a future in which the United States must lead."
On human rights, Clinton lamented that Asia was home to three imprisoned or exiled Nobel peace laureates, Myanmar pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama, and Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
"We will not impose our values on other countries, but we do believe that certain values are universal, that they are cherished by people in every nation in Asia and that they are intrinsic to stable, peaceful and prosperous countries," she said. "In short, human rights are in everyone’s interest."