US Presses China on Iran in Latest Talks

The Associated Press
Wednesday, June 20, 2007; 4:49 PM

WASHINGTON -- The second-ranking U.S. diplomat welcomed his Chinese counterpart to the State Department on Wednesday for two days of talks meant to ease tensions and strengthen ties between the world's strongest power and its fastest-growing upstart.

The United States will push hard in this fourth session of the "U.S.-China Senior Dialogue" for Chinese cooperation in pressuring Iran over its nuclear program and in pressing Sudan to end violence in its Darfur region, analysts say. Beijing will be keen to ensure there is no change in U.S. policy toward rival Taiwan.

Before heading into their meeting, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Executive Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo exchanged pleasantries but took no questions from reporters.

Their talks will cover a wide range of issues facing the two countries, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, including political, military and human rights matters, and "the critical problems facing both of us, like Darfur."

The summit is one of two high-level forums the countries use to manage a sometimes contentious relationship.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has launched a series of twice-a-year economic talks with top Chinese officials meant to deal with a host of trade tensions. Those include rampant piracy of American copyrighted material in China and U.S. charges that China's undervalued currency hurts the U.S. economy.

The two countries have cooperated recently on efforts to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons. But China faces much more criticism than praise in the U.S. Congress.

On the economic front, various U.S. lawmakers are calling for legislation to toughen the U.S. response to China's currency policies. Beijing also hears frequent U.S. claims that it abuses its citizens' rights, supports regimes Washington considers unsavory in exchange for energy deals, and hides the true nature of its military buildup.

Paulson said Wednesday that for the sake of the global economy, China needs to accelerate the pace of currency reform and overhaul its economy to be less dependent on exports. He told lawmakers during a hearing that the Bush administration would continue to press Beijing to move more quickly to let the yuan rise in value against the dollar.

American manufacturers contend the yuan is undervalued by as much as 40 percent. That makes Chinese goods cheaper for American consumers while increasing the price the Chinese must pay for American products.

Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS think tank, said the talks Wednesday and Thursday are part of U.S. attempts to spur China to take a role in global affairs that reflects its position as an economic and military powerhouse.

The United States, he said, is "taking a look at not only what the Chinese say but what they're doing around the world."

China sees the talks as an opportunity to strengthen its relationship with the United States, not necessarily as a venue to resolve differences, said Bonnie Glaser, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The United States, she said, uses the meetings to discuss very specific things: North Korea, Darfur, Iran.

"No one's looking for concrete results, but there is an understanding that you can't have a dialogue and not make progress on the issues," Glaser said.

© 2007 The Associated Press