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China Welcomes Greater American Role in Asia as Focus Shifts

China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi
Yang Jiechi, China's foreign minister. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

China welcomes the U.S. role in Asia and at the same time believes the Obama administration must respect Chinese interests in the region, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said at a briefing in Beijing today.

Ties between the U.S. and China are moving forward, Yang said in response to a reporter’s question about China’s attitude toward American plans for a strategic pivot toward Asia. He said China and the U.S. have more common interests in Asia than they do in any other regions of the world.

China has sought to play down tensions with the U.S., choosing not to criticize an agreement to bolster America’s military footprint in the region with the announcement that as many as 2,500 Marines will be stationed in Australia. Yang’s comments, made during the annual meeting of China’s National People’s Congress today, come after the country announced defense spending would rise 11.2 percent for 2012.

“To sustain the sound and steady relationship of the China-U.S. relationship is the common responsibility of the two countries,” Yang said. “There are some differences and disagreements between China and the United States but this relationship has been moving forward rather than backward.”

President Barack Obama said in November that the U.S. would shift the focus of its foreign policy to the Asia-Pacific region.

Vice President Xi Jinping, expected to become China’s top leader in a Communist Party transition that begins later this year, visited the U.S. in February and called on the Obama administration to respect China’s interests and accommodate China’s economic priorities.

The two sides are in close communication over Syria and Iran, Yang said.

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