Maritime tensions to dominate China-US strategic dialogue

China’s concerns over US support to Japan and East Asian countries over its maritime disputes and undervaluation of Chinese currency are expected to dominate the Sino-US bilateral dialogue beginning here on Wednesday as the top two world powers grapple to maintain a steady relationship amid increasing tensions. The sixth China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SED) will feature the US delegation led by Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who will hold two-day talks with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang and State Councilor Yang Jiechi to strike what Chinese officials describe a ‘new type’ of relationship to further their strained ties. Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony of the events and deliver a speech. Xi and Premier Li Keqiang will then meet the US delegation.

Officials said this year’s strategic dialogue covers a wide range of topics of domestic and foreign policy, including climate change, science and innovation, Sudan and South Sudan, UN peacekeeping and the illegal trade in animals and plants, as well as interactions in the Asia-Pacific region.
But more importantly both sides do not see eye-to-eye on the maritime tensions between China and Japan over the disputed islands in East China Sea and between Vietnam and China over the South China Sea. China alleges that the US pivot to Asia-Pacific with plans to deploy large military assets encouraged countries with maritime disputes to strike belligerent postures against it. While China-Japan tensions over the disputed islands in East China Sea has heightened military tensions between the two countries, Beijing’s attempts to deploy an oil rig in the disputed South China Sea in May resulted in breakdown of relations between China and Vietnam.

The incident resulted in anti-China riots in Vietnam in which over 400 factories mostly set up by Chinese investors were burnt down. Two Chinese were killed and over 100 injured in the riots. Over 7,000 Chinese workers were evacuated back to their homes. The Philippines, which along with Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei has disputes with China over the South China Sea has approached the UN for help. China however rejected third-party intervention to resolve the dispute. The US while criticising Chinese actions however said it has not taken any position on the disputes which have to be resolved by concerned parties and opposed any attempts by Beijing to seek a military solution.
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