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U.S., China Talks Wind Down Without Major Breakthrough

May 25, 2010 at 12:00 AM EST
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A U.S. delegation wrapped up negotiations in China, aimed at resolving longstanding economic and foreign policy issues. Ray Suarez reports on the progress of talks between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese officials.
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JIM LEHRER: Next: from economics to politics, the crowded U.S.-China agenda.

Ray Suarez has that story.

RAY SUAREZ: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took time out from talks in Beijing to join her hosts for a bit of vintage Chinese opera today.

Elsewhere in the Chinese capital, there was relatively little harmony between the Chinese and the high-level U.S. delegation, some 200 strong. The second annual strategic dialogue talks were aimed at resolving longstanding economic and foreign policy issues. But the original agenda was overshadowed by the showdown between North and South Korea over the sinking of a South Korean ship.

Secretary Clinton said, it’s in Chinese interests to help rein in the North Koreans.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. secretary of state: China not only values, but is very committed to regional stability. And it shares with us the goal of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

RAY SUAREZ: Clinton’s Chinese counterpart barely mentioned the Korean tensions in his statement. He called for all sides to avoid escalation.

Likewise, there was no visible progress on China’s policy of pegging its currency, formally known as the renminbi, to the U.S. dollar. That makes Chinese exports much cheaper and prices many American goods out of the Chinese market.

President Hu Jintao hinted yesterday at future cooperation, but said nothing more.

HU JINTAO, Chinese president (through translator): China will continue to steadily advance the reform of the formation of the renminbi exchange rate mechanism, under the principle of independent decision-making, controllability, and gradual progress.

RAY SUAREZ: Today, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the Chinese did pledge action on other trade issues.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, U.S. treasury secretary: Just as China wants to face growing opportunities in the U.S. markets, American firms — and we want to be able to demonstrate confidence that American firms are going to face a level playing field, with expanding opportunities in the Chinese market.

RAY SUAREZ: And on military matters, China held firm in its refusal to resume normal ties with the U.S. military.

LT. GEN. MA XIAOTIAN, People’s Liberation Army (through translator): Unfortunately, our plan for the bilateral military exchanges could not be realized, because the U.S. defense ministry’s announcement of weapons sales to Taiwan has a bad impact on the plan.

RAY SUAREZ: The U.S. announced last January it would go ahead with a $6.4 billion sale to Taiwan, including helicopters and missiles. A top American admiral who attended the Beijing talks said the dialogue on that front lags behind other facets of the U.S.-China relationship.