News Column

Obama, Xi Look to Forge New Diplomatic Relations

June 8, 2013
President Obama and Xi Jinping
President Barack Obama talks with President Xi Jinping of China at the Annenberg Retreat in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up two days of talks Saturday aimed at forging what the US leader had called a "new model of cooperation" between the United States and China.

They took time to get to know each other in long, unscripted talks at California's Sunnylands estate. The men ended their meetings with tea with Xi's wife and the wife of China's ambassador to Washington.

Obama and Xi made no public statements or joint appearances Saturday, but the US president said Friday evening that both nations had many areas on which to cooperate, even as he acknowledged points of contention, including cyberattacks and trade issues.

Obama and Xi agreed to cooperate on reducing some greenhouse gases to address climate change, the White House said.

They agreed to phase down production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons, which contribute to global carbon dioxide emissions and are used in refrigerators, air conditioners and other industrial equipment.

The HFCs could amount to nearly 20 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, slowing efforts to halt climate change.

As they try to forge a new type of "great power" relationship, stumbling blocks such as US accusations of cyberattacks on military infrastructure and piracy of goods could revive mistrust.

Much of Saturday's discussion centred on cybersecurity issues, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said after the talks.

Obama told Xi that "if it's not addressed, if it continues to be this direct theft of United States property, that this was going to be very difficult problem in the economic relationship and was going to be an inhibitor to the relationship really reaching its full potential," USA Today quoted Donilon saying in California.

The two leaders discussed a range of issues from stabilization of their strategic rivalry to trade relations and North Korea's nuclear programme.

Donilon said they agreed on the importance of North Korea giving up its nuclear programme.

Obama said they had spoken broadly about cybersecurity, but had not yet had "in-depth discussions."

"What both President Xi and I recognize is that because of these incredible advances in technology, that the issue of cybersecurity and the need for rules and common approaches to cybersecurity are going to be increasingly important as part of bilateral relationships and multilateral relationships," he said.

Obama called the issues "uncharted waters" without protocols for how to address them.

Cyberattacks are a growing concern to the US public after a recent government report alleged attacks from China on military and business infrastructure.

Last week, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel called the attacks a serious military concern that needs to be addressed urgently.

Xi described China as "firm in upholding cybersecurity," and said Beijing had "major concerns" about the issue.

The White House hoped the talks at the former Annenberg family estate in Rancho Mirage, a desert resort east of Los Angeles, will offer an informal setting conducive to success.

Obama described it as providing a chance for "extended and more informal conversation," but Xi has chosen not to stay at the estate, opting instead for a nearby hotel with US media noting Chinese concerns about espionage.

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Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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