WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States (US) told China in talks on Thursday it was "very disappointed" that Beijing did not hand over US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden when he fled to Hong Kong.
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, in a joint press appearance after two days of annual talks, said that the two countries' presidents agreed at a summit last month at the California resort of Sunnylands to work closely.
"That is why we were very disappointed with how the authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong handled the Snowden case, which undermined our effort to build the trust needed to manage difficult issues," Mr Burns said.
"We have made clear that the handling of this case was not consistent with the spirit of Sunnylands," said Mr Burns, who was filling in for Secretary of State John Kerry whose wife is ill.
Snowden, a former government contractor, fled the US for Hong Kong after revealing details of pervasive US intelligence surveillance on the Internet. The US sought his extradition to face charges.
But Snowden was allowed to leave Hong Kong, a territory of China that enjoys a large amount of autonomy, for Russia where he remains in limbo as he seeks a way to a country, likely in Latin America, that will offer him asylum.
State Councilor Yang Jiechi, speaking next to Burns, defended decisions on Snowden, whose allegations of US snooping in Chinese Internet networks have caused a stir in Beijing.
"The central government of China has always respected the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government's handling of cases in accordance with the law," he said.
Hong Kong "handled the Snowden case in accordance with the law and its approach is beyond reproach," said Mr Yang, a central figure in Chinese foreign policy.