Obama Calls for Military Dialogue With China

WASHINGTON — President Obama told China’s foreign minister on Thursday that their two countries need to raise “the level and frequency” of military dialogue “in order to avoid future incidents” like the high seas confrontation between naval vessels this week, the White House said.

The two met in the Oval Office in the highest level contact since a tense encounter Sunday involving a United States Navy survey vessel and five Chinese ships that escalated into what the chief American intelligence officer called the “most serious” military incident with China since 2001.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi spent two hours at the White House, meeting first with the national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, and then with Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. The White House played down the meeting, keeping it closed to reporters and news photographers. But it did release its own handout photo afterward.

Mr. Yang made no statements to reporters as he left the White House and did not mention the naval confrontation in a speech elsewhere in Washington earlier in the day.

The incident occurred Sunday about 75 miles off Hainan island, south of the Chinese mainland. Five Chinese ships surrounded and harassed the USNS Impeccable as it conducted surveillance in an area Beijing claims jurisdiction over but other countries consider international waters, according to the American account. The Chinese tried to block the ship and snag its cables with hooks. The Americans used a fire hose to spray water at the Chinese.

In meeting with Mr. Yang, General Jones “raised the recent incident in the South China Sea with the USNS Impeccable,” the White House said in a statement. The description of the conversation during the later meeting with Mr. Obama was more general, focusing on how to avoid future incidents. White House spokesmen would not say whether Mr. Obama talked about the Impeccable episode in any detail.

The president pledged to work closely with China on stabilizing the global economy and pressing North Korea to give up nuclear weapons.

And while Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently said disputes over human rights “can’t interfere” with work on other issues with China, Mr. Obama said “the promotion of human rights is an essential aspect of U.S. global foreign policy” and urged Beijing to make progress in a dialogue with representatives of the Dalai Lama.


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