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ANALYSIS – Clinton takes bigger role in China ties

Hillary

ANALYSIS – Clinton takes bigger role in China ties

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has hired envoys to tackle most tough foreign policy issues, but one priority she kept is China as Washington seeks Beijing’s help on challenges from North Korea to Iran.

Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner co-host two days of “strategic and economic” talks with top Chinese officials this week — meetings traditionally handled by the Treasury under the former Bush administration.

Sidelined recently by an elbow injury, Clinton also wants to reassert herself as a key player amid reports she is playing a lesser role in crafting foreign policy for President Barack Obama, her rival in last year’s Democratic presidential race.

Officials say Clinton — whose first foreign trip was to China — wants improved relations with Beijing to be a signature issue, with plans to broaden the previous focus from largely economic ties to a more “comprehensive” relationship.

“Over the past few years, the dialogue tended to shift significantly towards the economic and financial side,” said Clinton’s spokesman, P.J. Crowley.

“I think it (Clinton’s new role) reflects a return to a really broad range of issues, rather than a fairly narrow set that might have been the focus of the agenda over the past couple of years.”

The goal of the talks on Monday and Tuesday in Washington is to set a framework for the Obama administration’s agenda with the Chinese government — which is sending nearly all of its key officials for sessions.

“When you look at the U.S.-China relationship, it is kind of overweight on economics and light on security and foreign policy cooperation,” said Drew Thompson, director of China Studies at the Nixon Center.

Aside from stabilizing the shaky global economy, another focus of this week’s talks will be climate change and clean energy, an area Clinton earmarked as a diplomatic priority with Beijing and where some experts expect the most movement.


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Iran: Few words for China but plenty for Germany

Mideast Iran Egypt Germany

Iran: Few words for China but plenty for Germany

CAIRO – Iran has reacted with outrage over the stabbing death of an Egyptian woman in a German courthouse, calling it a sign of racism against Muslims, yet has said little about China’s crackdown on Uighur Muslims — a silence some leading Iranian clerics have criticized.

The differing reaction from a country that portrays itself as a defender of Islam worldwide is a sign of how highly Iran values its political and economic ties with China and how Tehran is trying to deflect attention following its own crackdown on protesters after the country’s disputed presidential election.

Iran has been one of the most vocal countries criticizing Germany in the wake of Marwa al-Sherbini’s death. The pregnant 31-year-old Egyptian was stabbed 18 times in a Dresden court July 1 by a man she was scheduled to testify against for allegedly calling her a “terrorist.” When he tried to protect her, her husband was stabbed by the attacker and shot by court security.

Some 1,500 Iranian women gathered in front of the German Embassy in Tehran on Tuesday chanting “Death to the enemy of hijab” — a reference to the hijab, or Islamic headscarf that al-Sherbini wore, Iran’s state news agency reported.

Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi called for German court officials who were present when al-Sherbini was killed to face trial, state-run Press TV reported. Iran’s ambassador to UNESCO complained to the organization’s director over what he called the desecration of Islamic values in European countries.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday called al-Sherbini’s death “absolute proof of the brutality of the German government.”

Iran is one of the few Muslim countries to speak out on the China crackdown on Uighurs in the country’s western Xinjiang region. More than 180 people have died in violence that began there July 5. The Uighurs complain about government restrictions on their religion and accuse it of trying to erase their language and culture.

But Iran’s official criticism of China has been mild, limited to a phone call Sunday by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to his Chinese counterpart to discuss the clashes and raise Islamic countries’ “concern.” Mottaki also denounced “foreign meddling” aimed at “undermining China’s stability,” implicitly blaming the West for the Xinjiang unrest.

Some Iranian clerics have called for Iran to take a stronger stance, in comments that often seem to also be criticizing Iran’s own conduct at the same time. Following June 12 elections, Iran suppressed widespread protests claiming fraud in Ahmadinejad’s victory. Police and baton-wielding Basij militiamen assaulted demonstrators, arresting hundreds in a crackdown that left at least 20 protesters dead.

In a statement carried on his Web site Sunday, Ayatollah Yusef Saanei denounced the Chinese government‘s “aggressive and inhuman stance.” But his comments appeared intentionally phrased to point at Iran’s crackdown as well.

“Is this how they claim to be willing to join the international community, by putting down the protests of their citizens and answering their cries for justice with electric batons … bringing out the militia and silencing any protests,” said Saanei, who has criticized the Iranian government directly in other statements.

Another senior cleric, Ayatollah Nouri Hamedani said the situation in China was an even greater crime than what had happened in Germany and said Iran should not remain silent, Press TV reported Monday.

“That’s pretty much pointing a finger at their own regime,” said Michael Wahid Hanna, an Iran analyst at the New York-based Century Foundation.

In denouncing Germany so vocally, analysts say Iran seeks to divert domestic and international attention following the election. Many Western countries, including Germany, criticized Iran for its suppression of protesters.

Attacking Germany is a way to portray the Western world as “anti-Islamic” and drum up sympathy within Iran, said Alireza Nader, an Iran specialist with the Washington-based RAND Corp. think tank, although he questioned whether the tactic would work with an already disillusioned Iranian public.

But Iran “can’t really afford to antagonize China at this point because China is one of the few world powers who really has cordial relations with Iran,” said Nader.

China has used its clout on the U.N. Security Council in part to prevent harsh sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program, and China’s status as Iran’s single largest trading partner make needling China a much riskier affair. When protests were heating up in Tehran over the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad’s win, Chinese President Hu Jintao congratulated him on his victory.

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Respect Myanmar sovereignty, China says after trial

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Respect Myanmar sovereignty, China says after trial

BEIJING  – The world should respect Myanmar’s judicial sovereignty following the sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi to 18 months in detention, China said on Wednesday, suggesting Beijing would not back U.N. action against the country.

A court in Yangon handed down the sentence to the opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner on Tuesday for violating an internal security law.

Western nations pressed the U.N. Security Council to adopt a statement condemning the sentence, but other countries, including veto-wielding members Russia and China, stalled for time.

The verdict drew criticism from leaders around the world. Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown called it “monstrous.” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said it was “brutal and unjust.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu repeated a call for all sides in Myanmar to talk to each other, but requested non-interference from the outside world.

“As a neighbor of Myanmar’s, China hopes all sides in Myanmar can push ethnic reconciliation through talks, and gradually realize stability, democracy and development,” Jiang said in a brief statement faxed to Reuters.

“This not only accords with Myanmar’s interests, it is also beneficial to regional stability,” she added, in China’s first official comment following the sentencing.

“As for the related domestic case, international society should fully respect Myanmar’s judicial sovereignty,” Jiang said, referring to the Suu Kyi case.

China is one of the few nations that stands by the military junta running the former Burma, has close economic ties with the government and has invested heavily in the country’s natural resources sector, especially in the energy field.

But China has also been worried by the gambling, drug-running and crime that spills over from hilly and isolated northern Myanmar into the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan.

India, another country with strong business links to Myanmar, has urged the generals to speed political reforms, saying it hoped the issue of release of political prisoners would be addressed as part of that process.

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