In Beijing's best interest to keep the peace: Biden

China has more to lose as economy grows in region, he says

AS CHINA'S economy grows, its stake in regional stability will also grow because it has so much more to lose, said US Vice-President Joe Biden as he made the case for Beijing to boost efforts to keep the region peaceful.

Speaking to about 60 American business leaders yesterday, he put China's controversial Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea, which includes the disputed Diaoyu/ Senkaku group of islands, in a broader context.

Mr Biden stressed that he has been very direct about Washington's firm position on the ADIZ, which has caused significant apprehension in the region.

With the Asia-Pacific region driving the global economy in the 21st century, he said China would have to play a larger role given its growing economic power.

"That is why China will bear increasing responsibility to contribute positively to peace and security. That means taking steps to reduce the risk of accidental conflict and miscalculation," he said.

At his meeting with Premier Li Keqiang yesterday, the two men discussed the need for closer economic cooperation. Mr Biden did not seem to have raised the ADIZ, at least not in public.

He did the same when he met President Xi Jinping on Wednesday. Behind closed doors, however, Mr Biden and Mr Xi had a robust exchange as they set forth their positions on the zone, according to US officials.

Mr Biden expressed deep concern, saying the unilateral move altered the status quo, while Mr Xi said setting up the ADIZ on Nov23 was within China's sovereign rights.

Fears that the zone might have hogged the agenda between the world's two largest economies seem unfounded. Other issues, such as China's treatment of foreign journalists and comprehensive Chinese reforms unveiled last month, were raised during Mr Biden's meetings with Chinese leaders during his two-day trip.

Mr Biden told business executives that a large part of the five hours of meetings he had with Mr Xi was spent discussing the outcomes of China's Third Plenum last month.

Economic reforms such as levelling the playing field for private and foreign-owned companies and protecting intellectual property match the priorities the US has raised with China, he noted.

Other areas of common interest included North Korea, Iran and Syria, greater access to affordable and clean sources of energy, and enhancing food and drug safety.

In their meeting, Mr Biden and Mr Li also reaffirmed their commitment to a "straightforward and candid relationship", and touched on the growth of Sino- American relations and their importance to the world.

Mr Li said the bilateral investment treaty relaunched in July should be seen as an opportunity for a breakthrough to broaden cooperation and raise it to higher levels, according to a report by state-run Xinhua news agency.

Mr Biden said Chinese firms are welcome to invest in the United States, and pledged to ease access to US markets.

He later left for Seoul, the final stop of his week-long Asia tour.

He is scheduled to meet South Korean President Park Geun Hye this morning.

esthert@sph.com.sg

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