The Times West Virginian

Headline News

December 5, 2013

China gives no ground to Biden in new air zone dispute

BEIJING — Giving no ground, Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden traded strong arguments Wednesday over China’s contentious new air defense zone, with no indication of progress toward defusing a situation that is raising anxieties across Asia and beyond.

Though Biden made clear the deep concern of the U.S. and other countries during the 5  1/2 hours of talks — themselves highly unusual for an American vice president and Chinese president — Xi vigorously made his case, too, for China’s declaration of new rules concerning a strip of airspace more than 600 miles long above disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Speaking to American business leaders here the next morning, Biden said he had been “very direct” about the firm U.S. position and Washington’s expectations for Beijing in his conversation with Xi.

“China’s recent and sudden announcement of a new air defense identification zone has, to state the obvious, caused significant apprehension in the region,” Biden said.

But Biden said he also put the issue in a broader context when he met with Chinese leaders. As China’s economy grows, its stake in regional security grows, too, because China will have more to lose. “That’s why China will bear increasing responsibility to contribute positively to peace and security,” he said.

The U.S. worries that China’s demand that pilots entering the airspace file flight plans with Beijing could lead to an accident or a confrontation spiraling dangerously out of control. Now it is up to the Chinese to take steps to lower tensions, and “it’s a question of behavior and action,” said a U.S. official, who briefed reporters on the private talks.

The official was not authorized to be quoted by name and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Though Biden expressed no disappointment in public remarks, the outcome of his visit was not what the U.S. might have hoped for.

Earlier in the week, the vice president had stood shoulder to shoulder in Tokyo with the leader of Japan, China’s regional rival, pledging to raise Washington’s concerns with Xi directly. But as he arrived in Beijing, an editorial in the state-run China Daily charged Washington with “turning a blind eye to Tokyo’s provocations,” warning that Biden would hit a dead end should he come “simply to repeat his government’s previous erroneous and one-sided remarks.”

Late Wednesday in Washington, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called China’s announcement of the zone “destabilizing” and complained that it had come “so unilaterally and so immediately without any consultation.”

“That’s not a wise course of action to take for any country,” Hagel said at a Pentagon news conference.

Neither Biden nor Xi mentioned the dispute as they appeared briefly before reporters at the end of their first round of talks. But in private, the issue came up at length at the beginning and again near the end of the long-planned meeting, senior Obama administration officials said.

The typically upbeat Biden appeared subdued as he reflected on the complexity of the relationship between China and the U.S., two world powers seeking closer ties despite wide ideological gulfs they have as of yet been unable to bridge.

“This new model of major-country cooperation ultimately has to be based on trust, and a positive notion about the motive of one another,” Biden said, flanked by top advisers in a resplendent meeting room steps away from Tiananmen Square.

The calibrated public comments played down the deep strains permeating the relationship between the world’s two largest economies.

Earlier, however, Biden told Chinese youngsters waiting to get visitor visas processed at the U.S. Embassy that American children are rewarded rather than punished for challenging the status quo, an implicit criticism of the Chinese government’s authoritarian rule.

“I hope you learn that innovation can only occur where you can breathe free, challenge the government, challenge religious leaders.” Biden said.

Xi, for his part, stuck to the script — at least in public. The Chinese leader touted the benefits of closer U.S.-China ties as he laid out “profound and complex changes” underway in Asia and across the globe.

“The world, as a whole, is not tranquil,” Xi said.

Behind closed doors, Xi made his own case for why China’s action to establish the air zone is appropriate, said the U.S. administration officials, who weren’t authorized to comment by name and demanded anonymity. Xi listened earnestly as Biden presented his own arguments, the officials said, but it was unclear what impact there might have been.

The simmering dispute over the tiny islands and the airspace above them has trailed Biden throughout his weeklong trip to Asia. After meeting with China’s premier and speaking to business leaders Thursday, he will fly to Seoul in South Korea — another neighbor whose air defense zone now overlaps with China’s.

American officials say as far as Washington is concerned China’s newly claimed zone doesn’t exist, and the U.S. military has flown B-52 bombers through it to drive the point home. But U.S guidance to commercial pilots to abide by the airspace rules has rankled Japan and other allies, who urged the U.S. to stand firm against China as Biden headed to the region.

The Obama administration sees China’s move as part of a broader strategy to solidify its claims to territory as the country asserts its power more vigorously in the region. Wary that nationalist sentiments in China may preclude Xi from backing down now that he’s established the zone, Washington has sought to persuade Beijing to quietly refrain from enforcing it, nullifying it in practice if not in deed.

“Xi has no room on this, at least right now,” said Victor Cha, who headed Asian affairs for the White House National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration. “Maybe the space will come later in terms of enforcement of the zone, but now they are butting heads on the issue, and the Chinese see us as carrying too much of Japan’s water.”

The U.S. has also urged China not to implement new zones over other disputed territories, as China has already claimed it has the right to do. Defending such actions, Chinese officials point out that other countries including Japan and the U.S. have similar defense zones over their lands.

Japan and China both claim the islands in the East China Sea. The U.S. takes no position but recognizes that Japan administers them. China is entangled in other disputes as well, including a long-running argument with the Philippines over islands in the South China Sea.

Tensions between the U.S. and China were temporarily glossed over earlier when Biden arrived here for an elaborate welcoming ceremony in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao greeted his American counterpart with an elaborate honor guard and a military band that played the two countries’ national anthems, as Biden and Xi stood together on a platform above the massive hall’s marble floors and crisscrossing red carpets.

———

Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

 

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Contract dispute delays ‘Big Bang Theory’ production

    Production on a new season of “The Big Bang Theory” is being delayed because of a contract dispute with its top actors.

    July 30, 2014

  • What’s a group selfie? An usie

    What do you call a group selfie? An usie, of course!

    July 30, 2014

  • Senate changes House bill for highway funds

    The Senate on Tuesday voted to change the funding and timing of a House bill to keep federal highway funds flowing to states in an effort to force Congress to come to grips with chronic funding problems that have plagued transportation programs in recent years.

    July 29, 2014

  • State close to national average in credit card debt

    Credit card debt may have reached its lowest level in a decade, but according to a recent study on personal debt vs. income, just as more people are paying off their credit card debt monthly, nearly the same number of people are being reported for unpaid bills.

    July 29, 2014

  • New VA secretary confirmed by Senate

    The Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new Veterans Affairs secretary, with a mission to overhaul an agency beleaguered by long veterans’ waits for health care and VA workers falsifying records to cover up delays.

    July 29, 2014

  • W.Va. man arrested after child found in hot car

    A Wheeling man faces charges that he left his 18-month-old daughter in a hot car while he was asleep on a couch.

    July 29, 2014

  • Board to meet on dangerous animals list

    CHARLESTON (AP) — A board tasked with compiling a list of animals that are illegal to keep as pets in West Virginia will consider one that’s shorter than a list suggested earlier.

    July 28, 2014

  • Clinton impeachment shadows GOP lawsuit against Obama

    The last time Republicans unleashed impeachment proceedings against a Democratic president, they lost five House seats in an election they seemed primed to win handily.

    July 28, 2014

  • Study: Fist bumps less germy than handshakes

    When it comes to preventing the spread of germs, maybe the president is on to something with his fondness for fist bumps.

    July 28, 2014

  • Obama Exporting Pollu_time.jpg ‘Not in my backyard’: U.S. sending dirty coal abroad

    As  the Obama administration weans the U.S. off dirty fuels blamed for global warming, energy companies have been sending more of America’s unwanted energy leftovers to other parts of the world where they could create even more pollution.
    This fossil fuel trade threatens to undermine President Barack Obama’s strategy for reducing the gases blamed for climate change and reveals a little-discussed side effect of countries acting alone on a global problem. The contribution of this exported pollution to global warming is not something the administration wants to measure, or even talk about.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Featured Ads