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usa has top priority on chinas growing power

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    This is well worth a read.....the conclusions for Australia are clear and need no comment as I post.

    US to press Rudd on China
    February 23, 2008 - 1:57PM


    US officials will press Australia for an assessment of China's growing strategic and economic role in the region, as Washington tries to determine what impact a new government in Canberra will have on Australian ties with Beijing.

    US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte began a series of meetings with Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon this morning, aiming to secure a renewed commitment from Australia's new government to the Washington security alliance.

    Gates and Negroponte are the highest ranking Bush administration officials to visit since Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's centre-left Labor Party won power.

    Rudd, a former diplomat who speaks fluent Mandarin, is seen by US officials as a China expert and someone who could act as a bridge between Beijing and the West.

    That expertise is what US officials hope to tap into today as they seek Australia's views on China's military build-up and growing influence in the region.

    "Both of us I think look forward with interest to our meetings with the Australians on this particular subject because Mr. Rudd himself is a China expert,'' Negroponte said.

    "So that's certainly an issue that's going to be on the agenda in terms of exchanging views and impressions and analyses about the relationship with China.''

    Relations between China and the United States have improved since 2001, when the countries' militaries broke contact following a collision between a Chinese fighter jet and U.S. spy plane.

    But many differences remain between Beijing and Washington over China's military build-up, US weapons sales to Taiwan and the countries' positions on international issues.

    Military relations were strained again late last year when China denied a US Navy aircraft carrier group and two smaller ships access to the Hong Kong port.

    Those events and others have led US officials to charge China with failing to live up to its obligations as a "responsible'' power.

    Some US officials and Washington security experts point to China's significant economic role inside Australia as something that could complicate Australia's attempts to deepen relationships with both Beijing and the West.

    "The importance of the Chinese market to Australia is profound,'' said one defence official travelling with Gates. "We forget that.''

    But both Gates and Negroponte rejected suggestions that Australia's economic ties with China would hurt its security ties with the United States.
    "I don't think that any government is going to put its fundamental security interests at risk over an economic relationship,'' the Pentagon chief said.

    Negroponte said the two were not mutually exclusive.

    "I don't think there's anything incompatible with developing an economic relationship with China and also managing our bilateral relationship and the alliance,'' he told reporters.

    Reuters
 
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