BY DAVID GOLLUST – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday rejected the notion that American and Chinese interests are “fundamentally at odds.” In an Asia policy address in Honolulu, Clinton said the Obama administration is committed to cooperative relations with Beijing. She also vowed to pursue human rights advances in the region.
Clinton’s seven nation Asia-Pacific trip, for which her Honolulu speech was the opening event, comes amid a surge in Sino-American tensions, including American complaints that China is artificially holding down the value of its currency.
But the secretary struck a conciliatory tone in her address, saying that far from seeking to contain China, the United States has for decades supported China’s economic and political growth on the world stage.
Clinton said the U.S. relationship with China is “complex and of enormous consequence” for the region and the world, and that the Obama administration is “committed to getting it right.”
“There are some in both countries who believe that China’s interests and ours are fundamentally at odds,” said Clinton. “They apply a zero-sum calculation to our relationship. So whenever one of us succeeds, the other must fail. But that is not our view. In the 21st century, it is not in anyone’s interest for the United States and China to see each other as adversaries.”
Clinton said the United States and China need to work together to deal with what she called North Korean “provocations” and to deter the nuclear ambitions of Pyongyang as well as those of Tehran.
On the currency issue, she said the Obama administration seeks “responsible policy adjustments” by China and a “better climate” for U.S. products and intellectual property that will address the two countries’ trade imbalance.
While reaffirming the U.S. security commitment to regional allies, including Japan and South Korea, Clinton pledged to “uphold and project” U.S. human rights values in Asia.
“Like many nations, we are troubled by the abuses we see in some places in the region,” added Clinton. “We join billions of people worldwide in calling for the release of [Burma’s] Aung San Suu Kyi. Her imprisonment must come to an end. And we are saddened that Asia remains the only place in the world where three iconic Nobel Laureates – Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama [of Tibet], and [China’s] Liu Xiaobo – are either under house arrest, in prison or in exile.”
Clinton reiterated U.S. support for an international commission of inquiry on Burmese human rights violations. She called the Burmese military government’s election plans for next month deeply flawed.
Earlier in Washington, a State Department spokesman said statements by Burmese officials that Aung San Suu Kyi would be freed, but only after the November election, a “craven manipulation.”
Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won the last free election in Burma, in 1990. But the opposition leader was barred from taking power and has been in detention for most of the time since then.
Clinton begins her Asia mission on Friday at the East Asia summit in Hanoi. She is scheduled to make a brief stop in China on Saturday, before continuing on to Cambodia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia.