US secretary of state to visit BJ on Saturday

Updated: 2013-04-13 01:28

By ZHANG YUWEI in New York (China Daily)

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Kerry to talk about 'shared concern' with Chinese officials

US Secretary of State John Kerry will arrive in Beijing on Saturday, kicking off his first visit to China since taking office in February.

Experts describe the "timely" visit as an opportunity for the world's two largest economies to explore the "new type of great power relationship" proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Kerry's two-day Beijing visit is at the invitation of Foreign Minister Wang Yi and follows one to the Republic of Korea. After Beijing, Kerry will visit Japan.

It comes as Pyongyang ratcheted up tension with its announcement that it will reopen its shuttered nuclear reactor and its threat to attack the US with a nuclear missile.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told a news conference earlier in the week that the two sides will "exchange views on Sino-US relations, and on international and regional issues of common concern".

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters last week that Kerry's visit affords a timely opportunity for the two sides to discuss their "shared concern" about the direction in which the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is heading.

Chas Freeman, a former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia who served as an interpreter during then-US president Richard Nixon's historic 1972 China visit, said it is important for senior levels of government in Beijing and Washington to strengthen consultations on tensions in Asia.

"East Asia is now the scene of multiple flashpoints for possible conflict, each of which has the potential, if mishandled, to drag in the United States and China," Freeman said, adding that the DPRK has raised tensions on the Korean Peninsula before to extract concessions from China and the US.

Liu Feitao, an expert on US studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said Kerry is keen for further communication with Beijing regarding the Korean Peninsula situation.

While the Korean Peninsula is said to be part of the discussion, experts say the meetings will mostly be to set the tone for a new phase of US-China relations following the Chinese leadership transition and the start of President Barack Obama's second term.

Kerry is also coming to promote strategies and tasks that have been nailed down during Obama's first presidential term, Liu said.

Douglas Paal, director of the Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think-tank, said that "the most important deliverable for Kerry's visit" will not be the degree of cooperation on the DPRK's current behavior, "but setting a strategic tone for overall US-China relations".

Last week, in a phone call with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, who most recently served as the country's foreign minister, Kerry said the US values highly its relationship with China and hopes the two will strengthen dialogue and cooperation.

It's important for the two biggest economic powers to maintain high-level visits and other contact, Yang said, adding that bilateral relations are at a new stage with a good start.

Zhang Yunbi in Beijing contributed to the story.