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Obama urges China to 'cool' cyber, maritime tensions

Thursday, June 25, 2015 - 06:49
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US President Barack Obama(5th-right) meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong (center left), Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang (3rd left) and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi (center right), at the conclusion of the seventh meeting of the US - China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on June 24, 2015.

[WASHINGTON] US President Barack Obama urged Beijing to take "concrete steps" to ease tensions over cyber intrusions and maritime claims, as America and China wrapped up three days of candid talks.

American officials have voiced deep concerns about both issues at the annual strategic and economic dialogue due to set guidelines for steering future ties.

During talks with officials including Vice Premier Liu Yandong and Vice Premier Wang Yang, Mr Obama "raised ongoing US concerns about China's cyber and maritime behavior, and he urged China to take concrete steps to lower tensions," the White House said in statement.

Ties have strained over US accusations of cyber espionage and this week's talks come after revelations of huge breaches of US government computer networks at the Office of Personnel Management.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who hosted the talks along with Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, said cyber hacking raised questions about security and "frankly harmed American businesses."

But even though both sides have stressed they continue to have differences over various issues, they have also been at pains to emphasise that they can cooperate.

Mr Kerry said this, the third round of talks which he has hosted, had been "one of "the most constructive and productive." "The United States welcomes the emergency of a stable, peaceful and prosperous China" that can take a leading role in global affairs, he said.

Areas where Beijing and Washington can collaborate include on nuclear non-proliferation efforts with Iran and North Korea, as well as in Afghanistan.

Earlier, the two countries also launched a joint initiative to protect the oceans, and vowed to step up efforts to combat illegal wildlife trafficking.

China and the United States are two of the top fishing nations in the world, Kerry said, and also leaders in ocean science.

"We have a real opportunity here to be able to come together... to deal with conserving and protecting the oceans," he said, adding it could be "a centerpiece in the newly defining relationship with China." China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi agreed, saying the oceans were "a shared homeland of mankind, vital for our survival and development."

PRISTINE WILDERNESS

Beijing and Washington are working together to try to create a marine protected area in Antarctica in the Ross Sea, Mr Kerry said, referencing one of the world's last true wildernesses.

The United States has long sought to create a marine reservation in the Ross Sea stretching across 1.34 million square kilometers (517,400 square miles) in an area often referred to as the "Last Ocean" due to its pristine condition.

Environmentalists say the Southern Ocean is home to more than 10,000 unique species, including penguins, whales and colossal squid.

But to the dismay of conservationists, China blocked the move at a meeting in Australia last year.

A new poll released this week by the Pew Research Center shows that the US bid to pivot more towards Asia has won general support on both sides of the Pacific.

The US is also still seen as the world's top economic power, even more so than last year. But 48 per cent of 45,435 people surveyed across 40 nations believe that China will eventually replace America as the world's leading super power.

On their burgeoning economic ties, the US side stressed the need for transparency and proper regulation for businesses.

China is the fastest-growing source of foreign direct investment in the United States, and in 2014 US exports to China reached US$124 billion, making it America's third-largest export market.

"A key ingredient is regulatory rule making that is transparent, predictable, and open to stakeholder input," said Mr Lew at a roundtable with top chief executives from Chinese and American companies.

"It is also of vital importance that there are non-discriminatory technology policies and open trade in information and communications technology goods."

AFP

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