- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2011

BEIJING | Buoyed by President Hu Jintao’s successful visit to Washington, China’s relations with the U.S. are warming again, after a year of disputes over issues from Taiwan to Internet freedom, China’s foreign minister said Monday.

Yang Jiechi’s comments marked a remarkably upbeat assessment of relations between the United States, the world’s No. 1 economy and dominant military power, and China, the rising Asian giant with an economy that overtook Japan’s last year to claim the No. 2 spot.

The two sides need to “seize on the momentum, build on the progress, earnestly implement the agreement reached by the leaders of the two countries and take solid steps in building the China-U.S. cooperative partnership,” Mr. Yang said.

In a wide-ranging news conference at China’s annual legislative session, he also pointed to deepening relations with Russia, investment and assistance to African nations, and stronger ties to multinational groupings like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

However, his comments on U.S. ties were among his most emphatic, possibly lending hope to negotiators seeking progress on disputes over China’s massive trade surplus with the United States and accusations that China keeps its currency artificially low to boost exports.

“There is now a good atmosphere in China-U.S. relations,” Mr. Yang said. “We have a full agenda in developing China-U.S. relations in the coming months.”

Relations have been on the upswing since Mr. Hu’s state visit in January that was widely hailed as a success. Mr. Hu received a much-coveted state banquet and formal White House welcome and the two sides managed to avoid the missteps that plagued his last visit in 2005.

Mr. Yang said Vice President Joseph R. Biden is scheduled to visit China this summer, followed by a trip to Washington by his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

A series of high-level meetings on trade and diplomatic ties offer further chances to boost the relationship, he said.

Mr. Yang also acknowledged lingering frictions, reiterating China’s strong opposition to arms sales to Taiwan and urging the United States to lend more support to a warming trend in relations between Beijing and Taipei.

The positive climate could not be more different from this time last year when China suspended military exchanges and bitterly criticized Washington over a $6.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory.

Further disputes followed over a visit to the White House by Tibet’s exiled Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama, regarded by China as a separatist intent on overthrowing Chinese rule over the Himalayan region.

Google’s decision to stop censoring its search results inside China and U.S. criticism of China’s Internet controls also heightened the tensions.

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