- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2012

China’s foreign minister on Wednesday said his nation is “committed to peaceful development” and hopes the United States will see Chinese progress “in the right and objective way.”

Yang Jiechi, who appeared via video-link before a peace conference in Washington, also said that he hopes steps can be taken to “increase mutual trust” between China and the United States.

The remarks came after China caused unease among western powers this week by announcing a significant uptick in the amount of money it will spend on defense this year.

Mr. Yang asserted that “China welcomes a constructive role played by the United States for peace, stability and prosperity in the region.”

“We hope that the United States will respect China’s interests and concerns in the region,” he said.

U.S.-China relations appeared to ride high during last month’s U.S. visit by Chinese Vice Premier Xi Jingping. But tensions continue to simmer beneath the surface over China’s expanding military presence in the South China Sea and U.S. moves to counter it.

China’s interests in the region include a desire to achieve total sovereignty over the potentially oil- and gas-rich South China Sea and a long-held yearning to take sovereign control of Taiwan, which the United States has pledged to protect.

China announced on Sunday that it will spend more than $100 billion on defense this year, an 11.2 percent increase over 2011. While the increase is slightly less than previous years, the increase has still caused unease among U.S. allies in the region.

The Philippines on Wednesday announced it will hold military exercises with the United States next month on Palawan Island, which faces the South China Sea. The exercises come on the heels of a deepened U.S. military alliance that was announced last year with Australia.

Mr. Yang’s remarks Wednesday came as part of a three-day conference held by the United States Institute of Peace, examining U.S.-China relations since President Richard M. Nixon’s trip to China in 1972.

Henry Kissinger, 89, who served as Mr. Nixon’s secretary of state at the time, appeared at the conference early in the day, delivering remarks that felt much like window into history and as an assessment of current challenges facing the U.S.-China relationship.

He said that during 1972 visit, Mr. Nixon embraced a big-picture, forward thinking strategy, which meant that he steered away from locking heads with Chinese leader Mao Zedong on specific details about such contentious issues as Taiwanese autonomy.

Mr. Kissinger said the major theme was: “Let’s talk about where we’re trying to go.” Mr. Nixon spent most of his time in Beijing “talking political philosophy,” Mr. Kissinger said.

The visit resulted a long history of positive diplomatic posturing between the United States and China, as established by the Shanghai Communique, which was jointly issued by the two during the visit.

“If you look at the fact that China cannot accept that Taiwan should be separate, and we cannot accept a military solution and having made this clear in the Shanghai communique, this has been a subtle management in eight administrations of a problem that has no abstract solution,” Mr. Kissinger said.

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