China's Xi says soon heading to U.S., urges cooperation

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 16, 2012 7:23 AM
China's Xi says soon heading to U.S., urges cooperation

BEIJING (Reuters) - China and the United States should work together more closely on defusing regional disputes and ensure that disputes between them do not roil ties, China's likely next president Xi Jinping said on Monday, ahead of his visit to the U.S.

"No matter what changes affect the international situation, our commitment to developing the Sino-U.S. cooperative partnership should never waver in the face of passing developments," Vice President Xi told a meeting in Beijing.

"In dealing with major and sensitive issues that concern each side's core interests, we must certainly abide by a spirit of mutual respect and handle them prudently, and by no means can we let relations again suffer major interference and ructions."

Xi's growing seniority indicates that he is virtually certain to replace Hu Jintao as Chinese Communist Party chief in late 2012 and then replace him as state president in early 2013.

Xi's planned visit to the United States will be a trophy in burnishing his foreign policy credentials. The state-run China Daily last week said Xi (pronounced like "shee") is likely to make that trip in February.

Xi's tone-setting speech did not unveil new policies or the precise date of his visit. But he underscored Beijing's desire for stable relations with Washington ahead of the visit and his accession to leading the world's second biggest economy after America's.

"I will soon visit the United States at the invitation of Vice President Biden, and I hope that my visit can play a positive role in advancing the Sino-U.S. cooperative partnership," Xi told the gathering of officials and scholars commemorating 40 years since U.S. President Richard Nixon made his historic, ice-breaking trip to China in 1972.

"We should enhance coordination over regional hotspots, and strive together to encourage the stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region."

Yet ties between Beijing and Washington have been buffeted by strains over trade, regional policy and military intentions that could be complicated this year by China's leadership succession and the U.S. presidential race. Washington will be eager for clues of how Xi will handle relations.

The United States has repeatedly complained about its big trade deficit with China, which many U.S. lawmakers says is swelled by Beijing's controls holding down the value of its yuan currency. Beijing has chided the Obama administration for policies that Chinese official said could undermine the value of their huge holdings of dollar-denominated assets.

Washington has urged China to explain more clearly how it could use its rapidly modernizing military forces. Beijing has voiced its own misgivings about the Pentagon's plans to shore up U.S. military strength across the Asia-Pacific region, which some Chinese military officers have said amounts to an effort to "encircle" their country.

The two governments also disagree on how to deal with Iran and North Korea, with Washington and its allies favoring firmer use of sanctions and pressure while Beijing urges dialogue.

In August, Xi hosted U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on a visit that gave Washington policy-makers a rare chance to size up China's president-in-waiting. Biden will also host Xi when he visits the United States.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)