China tells US to take steps to avoid debt crisis

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China urged Washington on Monday to take decisive steps to avoid a debt crisis and to ensure the safety of Chinese investments, as a deadlocked US Congress confronted a looming deadline to increase the nation's borrowing power or risk default.

China, the US government's largest creditor, is "naturally concerned about developments in the US fiscal cliff", Vice-Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said in the Chinese government's first public response to the Oct 17 deadline in the United States for raising the debt ceiling.

"The United States is totally clear about China's concerns about the fiscal cliff," Mr Zhu told reporters in Beijing, adding that Washington and Beijing had been in touch over the issue.

"We ask that the United States earnestly takes steps to resolve in a timely way before Oct 17 the political (issues) around the debt ceiling and prevent a US debt default to ensure safety of Chinese investments in the United States and the global economic recovery," Mr Zhu said.

"This is the United States' responsibility."

The US government moved into the second week of a shutdown on Monday with no end in sight, as Congress also confronted an Oct 17 deadline on raising the debt ceiling.

"We hope the United States fully understands the lessons of history," Mr Zhu said, referring to a deadlock in 2011 that led to a downgrade of the US credit rating to "AA+" from "AAA" by agency Standard & Poors.

The last big confrontation over the debt ceiling, in August 2011, ended with an eleventh-hour agreement under pressure from shaken markets and warnings of an economic catastrophe if a default were allowed to happen.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner vowed on Sunday that there was "no way" Republican lawmakers would agree to a measure to raise the debt ceiling unless it included conditions to rein in deficit spending.

The comment raised fears that the US Congress and President Barack Obama could fail to reach a deal on raising the ceiling by Oct 17, when the Treasury has estimated it will have run out of cash.

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