- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2011

REASSURING CHINA

The new American ambassador to China tried to calm Beijing’s anxiety over its massive U.S. debt holdings, insisting on Sunday the investment is safe despite the U.S. economic crisis.

Gary Locke, in his first news conference since arriving in China on Friday, noted that traders have begun buying U.S. Treasury bonds “over the past several days.”

“So it’s a clear indication that investment in the United States is safe, secure, and the economy, while having its challenges, is still strong,” he said.

Some Chinese commentators in the state-controlled media complained last week over the wild swings in the U.S. stock market after the Standard & Poor’s credit-ratings firm downgraded U.S. debt.

Zhou Qi of the Chinese Academy of Social Scientists told the China Daily that Mr. Locke will have the “responsibility to relieve the anxiety in China toward U.S. debt.” He predicted a “gloomy economic future” for the United States.

China holds more than $1 trillion in U.S. debt, about one-third of the outstanding Treasury bills, China Daily said.

In his news conference, Mr. Locke said one of his goals as ambassador is to improve U.S.-Chinese diplomatic relations.

“The United States and China have a profoundly important and complex diplomatic and economic bilateral relationship - one with challenges, no question, but one which also holds great promise for expanded cooperation and collaboration,” he said.

Mr. Locke, formerly President Obama’s secretary of commerce, is used to dealing with Chinese officials on trade disputes.

Mr. Locke added that he is busy preparing for a visit by Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who is due in Beijing on Monday. Mr. Biden also will visit Mongolia and Japan.

“The vice president was one of the first U.S. senators to visit China back in 1979, and we look forward to welcoming him back,” Mr. Locke said.

Mr. Biden traveled to China shortly after the United States established diplomatic relations with the Chinese communist government.

Mr. Locke, who was flanked by his wife, Mona, and their three children, said he was humbled and honored to be the first Chinese-American to serve as U.S. ambassador to China. The 61-year-old diplomat is the son of Chinese immigrants.

“I can only imagine just how proud my dad, Jimmy, who passed away in January, would be for his son … to represent the United States in the land of his and my mother’s birth,” he said.

PAKISTAN REBUFFS ENVOY

One of Pakistan’s top generals dismissed a demand from the U.S. ambassador for a military offensive in a border tribal area where Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists are hiding, according to Pakistan news reports.

Ambassador Cameron Munter delivered what one source described as a “tough message” from Washington in a meeting last week with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the army chief of staff.

” ‘There are tough times ahead for you, and more and more indicators are not in your favor,’ ” Mr. Munter told the general, according to the PakTribune Online.

Gen. Kayani “responded with an emphatic, ‘No,’ ” the news site reported.

PKKH TV took a harder line in a report that accused the United States of trying to push Pakistan into a “civil war.”

The U.S. Embassy confirmed the meeting but declined to provide any details.

Much of the tribal area in the region known as North Waziristan is controlled by the Haqqani terrorist network, which is allied with Taliban and al Qaeda fighters who use the region as a safe haven to wage attacks against U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

The United States has complained that elements in Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency protect the Haqqanis to use them against regional rival India.

U.S. forces regularly launch unmanned aerial drone attacks against suspected terrorist targets in North Waziristan.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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