WASHINGTON: The United States and China are to expand their dialogue to cover counterterrorism, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced but Beijing cautioned against any interference in internal affairs.
"I am pleased to announce that the United States and China will be conducting joint talks on counterterrorism this fall," Clinton said on Thursday at a business forum attended by China's chief legislator, Wu Bangguo, the second most powerful man in China's ruling Communist Party led by President Hu Jintao.
"Now, we will not see to eye to eye on every issue," Clinton said. "We have different histories, different experiences, different perspectives, but we must seek to talk honestly and openly, even when agreement is not possible," she said. "And we are committed to doing so."
The talks disclosed by Clinton may be the first institutionalized dialogue with China on counterterrorism, regional diplomats said. Clinton did not provide details on particular issues to be discussed.
The counterterrorism talks may become complicated as Rebiyah Kadeer, the exiled leader of China's Uighur Muslim minority whom Beijing calls a terrorist, is living in exile in Washington since being freed from a Chinese prison in 2005.
Chinese authorities have accused Kadeer, head of the World Uighur Congress, of inciting unrest between Uighurs and Han Chinese in the northwestern city of Urumqi in July that left nearly 200 people dead and more than 1,600 injured.
Beijing has previously hinted that Washington should rein in the exiled leader, a 62-year-old mother of 11 who adamantly denies Beijing's charges and accuses China of repression against the Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim group who speak a Turkic language.
Wu, in his speech Thursday, made clear Beijing would rebuff any interference in China's internal affairs.
"We believe that one should not interfere in other countries' internal affairs or impose its own will on others," he said, seeking respect for "each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
He also said that Beijing was against any international support for "separatist forces" in Tibet or Taiwan.
"We are against the practice of using differences in perception as an excuse and freedom of religion and speech as a cover to support, or support in a disguised way, separatist forces for 'Taiwan independence,' 'Tibet independence' and other separatist agenda and meddle in China's internal affairs," Wu said.
But he agreed with Clinton that differences in history, culture, social system, ideology and development stage should not be allowed to stand in the way of cooperation.
President Barack Obama's administration held its first revamped Strategic and Economic Dialogue with China in July, focusing on bilateral, regional and global challenges on economic and foreign policy issues, as well as climate change.
The talks were launched under former US president George W. Bush in 2006.
Clinton recalled that in July the two countries had "a very frank discussion" about human rights, a touchy topic for the Chinese government.
Beijing has come under attacks from Western governments for stifling freedom in the world's most populous nation.
Clinton also said that the two countries had agreed to hold the next round of the human rights dialogue before the end of the year and also reconvene a bilateral legal experts dialogue.
"We know that this is an important part of our engagement with China," she said.
Obama will make his first presidential visit to China in November to bring fresh impetus to relations as he faces pressure to slap trade sanctions on Chinese goods and save jobs at home as the United States recovers from a brutal recession.
The United States has also been grappling with a ballooning trade deficit with China amid allegations that Beijing has been manipulating its currency to make its exports more competitive.