Senior US diplomat to China on diplomatic mission
BEIJING: A senior US diplomat was due in China Tuesday for talks aimed at getting Sino-US relations back on track, with tensions high over US arms sales to Taiwan and a White House visit by the Dalai Lama.
US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg will also focus on efforts to bring North Korea back to stalled nuclear disarmament negotiations, and try to persuade Beijing to back new sanctions against Iran over its atomic programme.
Steinberg, who will be accompanied by Jeffrey Bader, Obama's top Asia adviser on the National Security Council, will head to Tokyo on Thursday for talks with Japanese officials before heading home.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Beijing and Washington needed to put aside their differences -- over everything from Taiwan and Tibet to Internet freedom and the value of the yuan -- to move forward.
"We've gone through a bit of a bumpy path here and I think there's an interest, both within the United States and China, to get back to business as usual as quickly as possible," Crowley told reporters on Monday.
The spokesman said the visit by Steinberg and Bader offered an opportunity to "refocus on the future" of relations between the US and China, the world's largest and third-largest economies.
When he took office in January 2009, US President Barack Obama promised to broaden the Sino-US relationship. In July last year, he said that relationship would "shape the 21st century".
The US president made his maiden official visit to China with much fanfare in November.
But since then ties have faltered, with Beijing angry over the January approval of a 6.4-billion-dollar arms package to Taiwan and Obama's meeting last month at the White House with the Dalai Lama.
China considers Taiwan, which split from the mainland at the end of a civil war in 1949, part of its territory awaiting reunification.
China vilifies the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader who fled his homeland in 1959, as a separatist.
Sino-US ties have also been affected by Internet giant Google's threats to pull out of the emerging Asian market over cyberattacks and government web censorship, and a variety of trade and currency issues.
"We have a very broad, deep, complex relationship with China. There are many areas where we have achieved a consensus view. North Korea would be a great example of that," Crowley said.
"There are some areas where we do not yet have a convergent view. Iran might be an example of that," he added, noting that both subjects were on Steinberg's agenda in Beijing.
The six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons drive, hosted by China, have faltered since Pyongyang stormed out in April last year, a month before staging a second nuclear test.
Pyongyang says it cannot return until UN sanctions are lifted and it receives a US commitment to discuss a formal peace pact, replacing the armistice which ended the 1950-1953 war on the Korean peninsula.
On Iran, the United States and China are divided, with Washington pushing for tough new sanctions against Tehran over its disputed nuclear programme, but Beijing insisting more talks are the answer.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Saturday that he hoped 2010 would not be "an unpeaceful year" for trade and economic relations with the United States.
US and Chinese officials in Beijing did not immediately provide information about Steinberg's schedule.