FM’s US visit sets 2016 tone

2016-02-24 00:48:31 GMT2016-02-24 08:48:31(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi started a three-day visit to the US on Tuesday, which experts believe will set the tone for Sino-US relations in 2016, as well as assuage the tensions rising both in the South China Sea and on the Korean Peninsula.

Wang is expected to have an in-depth exchange of views with US Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior US officials on China-US ties as well as "issues of common interest," Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Monday.

Though more details have not been revealed, experts say that sensitive issues including the North Korean nuclear issue, the South China Sea and Taiwan are likely to top the agenda.

"How to cope with potential conflicts between the US and China will be a priority for the visit, as bilateral relations between the two sides are very complicated now, which may pose threats for both sides," Zha Xiaogang, a researcher at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times.

The visit will also set the tone for the two countries' relations in 2016, which may lead to both sides exchanging views on upcoming events such as the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue and the G20 Summit, Zha noted.

The 2016 G20 summit is due to be held in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province in September, the first to be hosted in China.

Reiterate THAAD stance

"The Korean Peninsula nuclear crisis demands a prompt solution from China and the US and will be a priority for Wang's visit, as the worsening situation may lead to conflicts between Beijing and Washington," Zha said.

The US is negotiating with South Korea on the possible deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) in South Korea, which China opposes, as it could be put to other uses.

"Wang will absolutely reiterate China's stance on the deployment of THAAD during his visit," Zha said. "It's possible that both sides will make certain compromises on this issue, since the US is aware that China will no doubt take countermeasures if THAAD is deployed in South Korea."

However, Zha believes that the US and China are likely to reach agreement on UN sanctions against North Korea, since China has been taking a tougher stance on Pyongyang recently.

China supports the UN Security Council in passing new and effective resolutions on North Korea in response to its nuclear test and satellite launch, Hua said Monday, adding that China's stance on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue is clear.

However, while there may be much agreement during the visit, China is not likely to convince the US to end the Korean Peninsula's armistice agreement and sign a peace treaty any time soon, since the two nations have very different propositions on this issue, experts said.

"The peace treaty issue will be a long-term mission. It requires endless efforts from both sides, though this visit may further push the process," Jin Jingyi, a Peking University expert on North Korean studies, told the Global Times.

Respond to US hype

Diplomatic spats between China and the US increased after incursions by US Navy warships into China's territorial waters in the South China Sea, as well as the US media's hype over the so-called militarization of China's islands, Zha said.

A US think tank claimed Monday that China may be installing a high-frequency radar system in the Nansha Islands, which could significantly boost its ability to control the islands, Reuters reported.

Hua said during a press meeting on Tuesday that deploying limited and necessary defense facilities on the Nansha Islands is for China's "self preservation."

"Tensions over the South China Sea have escalated lately, so China may use this visit to reiterate its stance on the South China Sea, as well as to respond to some sensitive topics hyped up by the US," Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the National Institute for the South China Sea, told the Global Times.

Due to the frequent incursions by US aircraft and warships into China's territorial waters, both sides may agree on some rules to prevent potential regional conflicts, Chen said.

China's Ministry of National Defense announced in September 2015 that it had finalized the Annex of the Rules of Behaviors for Air-to-Air Encounters, a document aimed at reducing potential conflicts between China and the US in the South China Sea.

Wang will also reiterate China's stance on the South China Sea to prevent the US and the Philippines from exerting pressure on China, as a so-called arbitration from a Hague court is expected to be released in June, Chen added.

On Tuesday, Hua also reacted strongly against US calls for other countries to join its patrol in the South China Sea.

"It must be pointed out that the freedom of navigation under international law is by no means the freedom for US vessels and planes to make a show of force," she said. "What the US thinks about is perhaps absolute hegemony on the sea."

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Editor: Zhao Wei
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