A strong and special relationship

Updated: 2013-04-18 08:02

By Tao Wenzhao (China Daily)

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Kerry's visit consolidated ties with China and enhanced cooperation amid growing tensions on Korean Peninsula

US Secretary of State John Kerry has just concluded his first visit to China since taking office. His trip had three purposes: The first was to establish a working relationship with China's leaders, the second was to establish a strong and special Sino-US relationship, and the third was to consult with China over the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.

While meeting with Chinese leaders - President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi all had in-depth talks with Kerry - both sides agreed to continuously enrich the content of bilateral relations, achieve new breakthroughs in the depth and quality of their cooperation, and expand their common interests.

The two sides also agreed to issue a joint statement on climate change and announced the two countries will set up a climate change workforce under the framework of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue. As the two are the world's top energy consumers and greenhouse gas emitters, this decision will have great significance for the creation of a new international mechanism to address climate change.

However, with tensions on the peninsula escalating in an alarming way, how to defuse the tensions and continue to promote denuclearization on the peninsula was obviously at the top of Kerry's agenda. He also visited the Republic of Korea and Japan.

After the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution on March 7 condemning the third nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Pyongyang has been ratcheting up its warmongering rhetoric, including the announcement of a state of war on the peninsula. There has been mounting speculation that it will conduct a new missile launch or nuclear test in the coming weeks.

Regardless of the true intentions of the DPRK, the rising pitch of its war rhetoric is causing the United States and its regional allies increasing concern. In the ROK and Japan, Kerry vowed that the US would protect its Asian allies against any provocative acts. Besides holding joint military exercises with its allies, the US has strengthened its military deployment in the region, including the presence of the F-22 stealth fighter, the B2 stealth bomber, the B-52 strategic bomber and a nuclear submarine.

China is committed to resolving the DPRK nuclear issue peacefully through dialogue and negotiation, and Beijing and Washington will carry out further consultations over the DPRK nuclear issue when Deputy Secretary of State William Joseph Burns visits China and other countries in the region from April 22 to 29, with the focus on discussing the DPRK issue.

To maintain long-term stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia two procedures are essential: one is the process of denuclearization and the other is to make the DPRK integrate into the regional and international community. With concerted efforts and perseverance the DPRK nuclear issue can be resolved.

Kerry did not mention the US' strategy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific when he was in Beijing, but he made it clear in Japan that the Obama administration will continue to implement the strategy.

However, the rebalancing has caused widespread concern as the US has put too much emphasis on military factors while carrying out its strategic shift, and it has released some fuzzy and even self-contradictory information that has caused various interpretations and adverse reactions in Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.

As a result there have been signs that the Obama administration is willing to rebalance the rebalancing strategy, and Kerry said during his trip that if the DPRK abandons its nuclear weapons program, the US will reduce its missile defense forces in Asia.

During Obama's first term, the leaders of the two countries reached a consensus on establishing a cooperative partnership and agreed to the goal of building a new type of great power relations. As both Chinese and US leaders attach great importance to bilateral relations the two sides should carry forward this consensus and further enrich its content.

Sino-US economic and trade relations are the most powerful proof of the win-win and interdependent nature of bilateral relations. But the good momentum that has been achieved has also encountered some obstacles because some people in the US always want to politicize the relationship and Washington has been maintaining restrictions on high-tech exports to China. Now Obama has begun his second term and vowed to expand exports, it is high time for Washington to ease restrictions on high-tech exports to China, as this would provide a big boost to trade relations.

The author is a senior researcher with the Center for US-China Relations at Tsinghua University.