Clinton fails to win over China on Syria, regional disputes


US SECRETARY of State Hillary Clinton has met senior Chinese leaders but has not succeeded in easing regional tensions over disputed islets in the South China Sea or on bringing China and the West closer together on Syria.

Leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping cancelled a meeting with Mrs Clinton, prompting a flurry of speculation online about his reasons for doing so, although he had also cancelled other planned meetings yesterday and officials insisted privately there was no snub involved.

Mrs Clinton and foreign minister Yang Jiechi said relations remained close, even though the run-up to the visit had been marked by China’s criticism of US calls for a multilateral solution to the territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas.

“I’m very proud of the strength and resilience that we have built into our relationship,” Mrs Clinton said after meeting Mr Yang in the Great Hall of the People. “It makes it possible for us to talk about anything and to find ways to tackle issues frankly and forthrightly.”

This is her second China trip this year.

Mr Yang repeated China’s position that Syria’s civil war must be resolved internally and without outside interference.

Washington and other countries are upset that China and Russia have repeatedly used their veto powers in the UN Security Council to block actions that could have led to sanctions against the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. “I think history will judge that China’s position on the Syria question is a promotion of the appropriate handling of the situation,” Mr Yang told a news conference with Mrs Clinton, “for what we have in mind is the interests of the people of Syria and the region and the interests of peace, stability and development in the region and throughout the world.”

Mr Yang was forthright on the South and East China Sea issue too. He said freedom of navigation in the sea was assured and there would “never be issues in that area in the future”, but he insisted that China owned the islands.

China and Japan have rival claims to the uninhabited Diaoyu islands – called Senkaku in Japan – and surrounding fishing areas and potentially rich gas deposits.

State media is also taking a hard line. An editorial in Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily took a strong line, suggesting the US was seeking to gain leverage from China’s tensions with its neighbours.