Kerry heads for tough US-China talks as strains emerge in ties

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday headed for tough talks in Beijing seeking to chart a path ahead in turbulent China-US ties roiled by differences over hacking and maritime tensions.
Senior officials will meet in Beijing tomorrow and on Thursday for the sixth Strategic and Economic Dialogue, billed as the main annual meeting between the world’s two largest economies.

Kerry departed from Andrews Air Force base, outside of the US capital, for the long trip. Despite the Obama administration’s famous ‘Asia pivot,’ already fraught relations have strained further since the Washington in May indicted five Chinese military officers for hacking into US businesses.

Although analysts saw the move as a largely symbolic warning to Beijing since the men are unlikely to appear in a US court, China angrily cancelled key cybersecurity talks due this week. Alarm is also growing in Washington over Beijing’s increasingly assertive moves to stake out its claims to swathes of the South China and East China Seas -- pitting it against regional neighbours, many of whom are strong US allies.

While the US takes no sides in the competing territorial claims, it has accused Beijing of destabilising acts and urged the Chinese to uphold freedom of navigation in the key waterways. ‘The trick of course is to manage friction in an effective and constructive way,’ Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel told AFP.
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