Iran Probably Best Opener For U.S. And China Talks

The U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue takes place on Monday. This is the semi-annual meeting of top officials from both countries. U.S. secretaries Clinton and Geithner will be there. Host Liane Hansen talks with NPR's Anthony Kuhn.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are in China ahead of wide-ranging cabinet-level talks in Beijing tomorrow. The issues on the agenda include nuclear proliferation, Afghanistan, trade and currency.

NPR foreign correspondent Anthony Kuhn joins us from Beijing. And, Anthony, let's begin with nuclear proliferation, because Secretary Clinton has made it one of her top priorities. What do you think the prospects are for progress as she heads into these talks?

ANTHONY KUHN: Well, things are probably looking best on Iran at this point, as Secretary of State Clinton has said that she believes she has both Russia and China on board for sanctions. Things are going to be tougher on the North Korean nuclear issue, in part because of the issue of the sinking of a South Korean ship. The consensus between the U.S., South Korea and others now is that North Korea torpedoed this ship and Secretary Clinton has insisted no business as usual.

And South Korea is somewhat unhappy because they feel that China has been protecting North Korea from sanctions. So, she's going to have to push China harder to get China to bring pressure to bear on North Korea.

HANSEN: Currency and trade issues have been a big source of friction between the two countries. What do you think's likely to happen on that front?

KUHN: Well, one thing now is that as far as the Chinese currency is concerned, Washington and Beijing have agreed to tackle this problem quietly. The U.S. side has not labeled China a currency manipulator and this is their chance to work on this issue behind closed doors. However, it's a lot more complicated now because of the declining value of the euro. That makes it somewhat less likely that China will let its currency, the Yuen, appreciate against the dollar.

One issue that's going to be very big on trade is the issue of homegrown technologies. China wants to set aside a certain amount of procurement opportunities for homegrown technologies, local technical standards and things like that and U.S. companies are worried that they're going to be shut out of the market, so that's going to be on the agenda, too.

HANSEN: Relations between the United States and China really went through a rough patch this past winter. To what extent do the two countries just have completely difference agenda and expectations?

KUHN: Well, yes. You could say that this has been a year for unmet expectations for both sides. The Chinese were hoping that the Obama administration's policies would be more China-friendly than those of the Bush administration's. And for Washington, they had hoped that China would carry more weight in global affairs, and both sides have been somewhat disappointed.

They find they have different interests on Afghanistan, for example. They have differing threat assessments of the Taliban. Chinese don't see them quite as threatening because they don't threaten to foment unrest in China's Muslim majority western regions. And on global warming, the two countries are just in different stages of development and that makes for different interests.

But now that these expectations have been unmet, perhaps the talks can be a little bit more realistic about what they can expect to achieve.

HANSEN: NPR foreign correspondent Anthony Kuhn in Beijing. Thank you, Anthony.

KUHN: Thank you, Liane.

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